p>The Health Effects Of Mercury Exposure
Mercury is a chemical element that can be found in the air, water, soil and rock in the earth's crust. Additionally, it is a naturally occurring element and exits in numerous forms. The forms include organic mercury compounds, inorganic mercury compounds and metallic mercury. The above various forms of mercury all differ in their levels of toxicity. Regardless, exposure to any form of mercury is detrimental to your health.
Mercury Exposure In The Workplace
As previously stated, mercury is a naturally occurring chemical element. For it to be released into the environment, a natural phenomenon such as a volcano eruption has to take place. Also, human activities such as coal burning increases the release mercury into the environment. That said, who are the ones that stand the risk of high exposure? Everybody is essentially exposed to a certain amount or degree of mercury. You may be exposing yourself to mercury by simply consuming fish and any other type of seafood. However, certain workplaces or professions like the construction or other industrial industries often expose individuals to high levels of mercury.
Industrial and Construction Mercury Contamination
The construction industry, and everyone that works and operates within this industry is highly exposed to mercury. Everything from demolitions, renovations and new builds can be potentially hazardous activities that could expose mercury to the environment. How so? Let us take a look at a few some activities that can lead to mercury exposure:
Fossil Fuel burning: Fossil fuel burning as a source of energy. Fossil fuels include coal, natural gas and oil. By simply burning coal, we are releasing mercury into the air. According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, at least 3000 tons of mercury are released per year, from coal burning.
Smelting: Smelting is the process of extracting metal ores to obtain metals such as silver, copper or iron. This process utilizes the use of heat to remove gases and other elements such as mercury from the metal. Hence, releasing mercury into the air.
The Production of Cement: The simple manufacturing and production of cement has also been shown to increase emission of mercury into the air. How so? Cement production involves the use of fossil fuel combustion and weathering of rocks.
Mercury Spills: There have been numerous cases of mercury spills in the construction industry. From using and disposing of button batteries and electric switches, construction workers are advised to be attentive of how they dispose of such items.
Mercury in Tools and Gauges: Mercury is prevalent in widely used tools and equipment used by the construction and other industrial industries such as thermometers, barometers, fluorescent lighting, high pressure sodium, vacuum gauges, batteries and much more.
How To Avoid Exposure
For those that work in a highly exposed environment, there are a few guidelines that they are required to follow. They include:
Use and wear protective clothing including coveralls, eyewear, gloves, and a properly fitted respirator that is rated to protect against metals such as mercury.
Set in place administrative and workplace policies that every employer should adhere to
Ensure that your employees are trained on how to properly protect themselves from mercury exposure
Put in place monitoring equipment
Use clean energy sources in the workplace such as mercury free lights and batteries.
Properly dispose of broken or worn equipment containing mercury. Do not dispose of mercury into a water source.
Signs and Symptoms of High Mercury Exposure
Exposure to high levels of mercury can be detrimental to our health. Once mercury is exposed to the air, it binds with bacteria to form Methylmercury. Depending on how much and how long you've been exposed to Methylmercury, will determine the amount of health problems you will most likely suffer. The signs and symptoms include:
Lack of coordination
Problems with your vision
Impairment of speech
According to OSHA, mercury exposure is supposed to limited considerably. Preferably, employers should limit their mercury exposure to 0.01 mg/m3 every eight hours of work. Every industry, including the shipyard and construction industry, is advised to put in place certain measures to limit exposure. They include:
Use personal protective and life-saving equipment in the workplace
Every workplace to put in place Personal Protective Equipment training
Limit mercury mining or the use of mercury in mining
For every workplace to use ventilation during welding and cutting activities
Employers are advised to limit the use of harmful and toxic substances
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