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Can Mercury Be Absorbed Through the Skin?



Mercury CAN be absorbed through the skin.

More Info:  Mercury can be absorbed through the skin, but it depends on what kind of compound the mercury is in and how hydrated your skin is.  Most mercury exposure is due to inhalation, not skin absorption.  No matter what form it’s found in, whether liquid, solid or vapor, mercury is toxic if you are exposed to it long enough.


Dimethyl Mercury

There are some mercury compounds that are absorbed more readily than others.  Dimethyl mercury, for example, is very readily absorbed through intact skin and highly toxic in trace amounts.  Fortunately, you are unlikely to come in contact with Dimethyl mercury in your everyday life.  It is used primarily for research and has been used to calibrate MMR instruments to detect mercury.  Exposure to as little as a dose of 0.1mL is highly toxic.  This compound can even permeate some plastics and rubber compounds such as gloves. [“Dimethyl mercury.” Occupational Safety and Health Administration]

Elemental Mercury

Elemental mercury is that which you will find in thermometers and compact fluorescent light bulbs.  When spilled, it vaporizes slowly but the warmer the air, the faster it will vaporize increasing the risk of inhalation. Mercury vapor can be absorbed through intact skin and can pass the blood-brain barrier, which is what causes it to be highly toxic.  The best defense against exposure, both short term and long, is to avoid having mercury in the house.  Replace old mercury thermometers with digital or alcohol versions, as well as old thermostat switches, which can contain up to 3,000 milligrams of mercury—about 600 compact fluorescent light bulbs. [“Exposure to Elemental Mercury: Minnesota Dept. of Health]




“Dimethylmercury.” Occupational Safety and Health Administration – Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Jan. 2013.

“Inorganic mercury poisoning associated … [Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2011] – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Jan. 2013.

“Safe Handling of Mercury and Mercury Compounds.” Georgia Tech: Environmental Health & Safety. Georgia Tech, n.d. Web. 2 Jan. 2013.

“Exposure to Elemental Mercury: Minnesota Dept. of Health.” Minnesota Department of Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Jan. 2013.

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