Mercury (Hg) is a naturally occurring metal found throughout the environment. It’s a liquid at room temperature, combines easily with other metals, and expands and contracts evenly with temperature changes.
Because of these properties, mercury has been used in many household, medical and industrial products. Although it performs many useful functions in our workplaces and homes, mercury is toxic and can impair our health. It's a potent neurotoxin, meaning it interferes with the way nerve cells function. Mercury poisoning causes a decreased ability to see, hear, talk and walk. It can cause personality changes, depression, irritability, nervousness and the inability to concentrate. It also can cause damage to the brain, kidneys and lungs.
Mercury is a particularly serious problem for pregnant women and children. Fetuses and young children suffer the greatest risk because their nervous systems are still developing. They are four to five times more sensitive to mercury than adults.