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Mercury - Hg


Mercury metal : CAS N°: 7439-76-6


Mercury (Hg)Mercury occurs at low concentrations in the Earth's crust, mainly in sulfide ores (cinnabar), from which it has been extracted for a variety of uses for many centuries. Common applications of metallic mercury are as a cathode in the electrolytic production of chlorine, in dental amalgams, in the extraction of gold from ore concentrates, in electrical equipment and in devices for measuring temperature and pressure.
Mercury compounds have been used as fungicides in paints and on seeds and grains, as antiseptics, in electrical applications, and as catalysts and intermediates.

Workers are exposed to mercury by inhalation, principally to metallic mercury but also to inorganic and organic mercury compounds.
Occupations in which the highest exposures occur include mercury mining; work in chloralkali and alkaline battery plants and production of devices for measuring temperature and pressure. Lower exposures have been measured for people employed in hospital laboratories and dental clinics.
Exposures have been measured by both ambient air monitoring and biological monitoring.

Nonoccupational sources of exposure to mercury include food (methylmercury compounds, mainly in aquatic organisms) and dental amalgam fillings (metallic mercury). These exposure levels are usually lower than those typically detected in occupational settings. Mercury (Hg)

Mercury poisoning is a disease caused by exposure to mercury and/or its compounds.

Mercury is a heavy metal which occurs in several forms, all of which can produce toxic effects in high doses.

Its zero oxidation state Hg0 exists as vapor or as liquid metal, its oxidation state Hg+ exists as inorganic salts, and its oxidation state Hg2+ may form either inorganic salts or organomercury compounds; the three groups vary in effects.

Toxic effects include damage to the brain, kidney, and lungs.


Classification according to Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 of 16 December 2008

Reference: Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 december 2008 on classification, labeling and packaging of substances and mixtures, amending and repealing Directives 67/548/EEC and 1999/45/EC, and amending Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006. Official Journal of the European Union L353/1.


Maximum levels for mercury in foodstuffs
Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs.


Maximum mercury content in products intended for animal feed
DIRECTIVE 2002/32/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 May 2002 on undesirable substances in animal feed.


Tolerable human intake levels

Mercury: Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake (PTWI): 5 µg/kg body weight

Methylmercury: PTWI 1.6 µg/kg body weight
FAO/WHO, 2003: Summary and conclusions of the sixty-first meeting of the Joint FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)/WHO (World Health Organization) Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), Rome, 10-19 June 2003; JECFA/61/SC
FAO/WHO, 2006: Summary and conclusions of the sixty-seventh meeting of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), 20-29 June 2006; JECFA 67/SC



Mercury (Hg)The Trace Element Unit at CODA-CERVA is mainly dedicated to scientific research and services in the field of food safety, public and animal health. It provides analytical facilities for third parties by the determination of trace elements in food and animal feed. This activity is accredited according to the European Quality norm ISO 17025.

CODA-CERVA is analyzing mercury and other elements in epibenthos organisms and sediments in order to monitor the contamination of marine organisms and sediments in areas where dredging spoil is deposited.
CODA-CERVA is also analyzing marine organisms (biomonitoring) on their mercury and other trace element contents as a contribution of Belgium to ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) under the OSPARCOM (Oslo and Paris Commission) Convention.
Mercury (Hg)

CODA-CERVA is the Belgian National Reference laboratory (NRL) for the determination of trace elements in food and animal feed.


Nadia Waegeneers
Ann Ruttens



- De Temmerman, L., Waegeneers, N., Claeys, N., Roekens, E. 2009. Comparison of concentrations of mercury in ambient air to its accumulation by leafy vegetables, an important step in terrestrial food chain analysis. Environ. Pollut., 157, 1337-1341
- De Temmerman, L., Hoenig, M. 2009. Transfert d'éléments traces toxiques des sols arables vers les pommes de terre, le froment et l'épautre. Dans: Contaminations métalliques des agrosystèmes péri-industriels. Philippe Cambier, Christian Schwarz, Folkert van Oord (Eds), Editions Quae, Versailles cedex, 2009, 149-161
- Waegeneers, N., Hoenig, M., Goeyens, L., De Temmerman, L. 2009. Trace elements in home-produced eggs in Belgium: levels and spatiotemporal distribution. Science Total Environ. 407, 4397-4402


- De Temmerman, L., Claeys, N., Roekens, E., Guns, M. 2007. Biomonitoring of airborne mercury with perennial ryegrass cultures. Environ. Pollut. 146, 458-462


- Guns, M., Van Hoeyweghen, P., Vyncke, W. and Hillewaert, H. 1999. Tracé elements in selected benthic invertebrates from Belgian coastal waters (1981-1996). Marine Pollution Bulletin 38: 1184-1193.
- Vyncke, W., Hillewaert, H., Guns, M. and Van Hoeyweghen P. 1999. Trace elements in cut through shell (Spisula subtruncata) from Belgian coastal waters. Food Additives and Contaminants 16: 1-8.