cache_2600104004Mercury is a dangerous oderless liquid. Mercury poisoning can come from food sources or from breathing mercury vapors. It can evaporate quickly and can be released into the air when mercury-containing products are either broken or incinerated. Mercury accumulates in the flesh of fish and can build up and pose a health risk to humans and wildlife that consume large quantities of mercury contaminated meat.

Our nervous systems are very sensitive to all forms of mercury. Exposure to high levels of metallic mercury can cause permanent damage to our brain, kidneys and even unborn children. Long-term exposure to low levels of mercury vapors may cause effects including irritability, tremors, vision or hearing changes, learning disabilities and memory difficulties.

Mercury has been around on Earth as long as the Earth was formed, but now it is starting to cause a problem. Increased amounts of mercury have entered the environment through the burning of coal and wastewater that is discarded from industries. When industries burn coal or drain water in the environment, mercury is deposited into remote lakes and streams. Simply put, there is too much mercury in Wisconsin's waterways. Mercury deposited in lakes or waterways breaks down and builds up in the bodies of fish, wildlife and humans.

Mercury poisoning can also occur from a mercury spill, such as a broken mercury thermometer. The amount of mercury in a typical mercury thermometer is enough to contaminate all the fish in a lake with a 20-acre surface area. If a mercury thermometer breaks and is not cleaned up properly, the spill can create a potential risk of dangerous exposure to mercury vapor. Carefully handle and dispose of mercury containing products such as thermometers and fluorescent light bulbs. Never break open products that contain mercury; never pour mercury into any house drain, street drain, or open waterway; never burn mercury-containing products; never dispose of mercury-containing products in the trash; always properly recycle mercury containing products at a household hazardous waste collection site.

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