Mercury in Our Environment
Mercury is a natural element that can be found in three different forms in the environment:
Metallic (or elemental) – used for many years in thermometers, switches, batteries, jewelry, cosmetics and dental fillings. It's not used as much as it was in the past, but it may still be found in household items.
Inorganic – used in consumer products and cosmetics. Cosmetics such as skin-lightening products may have “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurio,” or “mercury” listed on the label, or have no ingredients listed or no product label at all.
Learn more about skin-lightening products
Organic (includes methyl mercury) – found in foods such as contaminated fish and shellfish. Learn about mercury in fish
This information is about metallic mercury. At room temperature, mercury is a shiny, silver-white liquid. If it is not in a covered container, it can evaporate into a vapor you cannot see or smell. Breathing in the vapor can be harmful to your health. Higher temperatures can cause faster evaporation.