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Get Informed | What is Mercury?

Mercury is a naturally occurring heavy metal ("liquid metal) that is found within the Earth's Crust that is also known by the name "quicksilver". On the Earth, mercury is present in three forms: elemental, inorganic, and organic. In its elemental form, mercury is a shiny and silvery white and at room temperature it acts like a liquid and will evaporate into the atmosphere. As an inorganic metal it commonly binds with gold, silver, cadmium, and zinc and is commonly present in the environment as mercuric oxides, chlorides, and sulfides. When the mercury combines with carbon, inorganic mercury compounds known as organomercurials, such as methylmercury, are created. Organic forms of mercury are generally much more toxic than inorganic mercury because the organic forms are more easily absorbed by the body.

The major source of mercury in the environment is the mercury that naturally volatilizes, or evaporates from the Earth's crust. Other sources include combustion of fossil fuels, electrical items like dry-cell batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, and mercury switches. Mercury is used in thermometers, dental amalgams, mining processes because it combines with rare earth metals , and some industrial processes. Outside of the USA, inorganic mercury may be found in some cosmetics.

Older readers in the U.S. may remember Mercurochrome™ (Merbromin), a complex organic compound of mercury, which was a bright red-orange liquid used as a topical antiseptic. It is no longer available in the U.S. and some European countries because of its mercury content but can still be found in many parts of the world. 

How Does Mercury Become a problem?

All three forms of mercury can create a health concern or problem. Elemental mercury can be taken into the body via respiration when the mercury vapors volatilize into the atmosphere during smelting or because of a spill or accidental release. Inorganic mercury uptake is typically related to the exposure to inorganic mercury through manufacturing or consumer products. Inside the body, these forms of mercury are converted to organic mercury. Direct inorganic mercury exposure is typically associated with the bioaccumulation of mercury in the food-chain. The normal pathway is when humans eat fish or shellfish that have been contaminated with methylmercury and the organic mercury compounds build-up in our systems. Therefore, mercury exposure can be through skin absorption, inhalation, and ingestion.

What are the Health Risks for Mercury?

Inorganic mercury can impact the digestion and neurological systems. Organic mercury can affect the kidneys, nervous system, and has been associated with cerebral palsy and developmental disorders in infants. Mercury exposure can also be associated with skin rashes.

What are the Standards for Mercury?

Mercury is regulated as a primary drinking water standard. The EPA has set a maximum contaminant level of 0.002 mg/L or 2 ppb.

Get Tested | Mercury

Like many contaminants in drinking water, this element is potentially hazardous at levels or concentrations that do not impart a noticeable taste, odor, or appearance to the water. Your best course of action is to get your water tested and compile as much information as possible about your water supply source, well construction, surrounding land-use, and local geology. If you do have a mercury problem, there are water treatment technologies available now that can reduce or even remove mercury from your drinking water.

Note: Do not just test your water for Mercury because there may be other primary and secondary drinking water standards that are elevated or that may interfere with the proposed remediation system and the ability of a treatment process to remove mercury.

Level 1 | Observational Self-Testing

Level 1 Testing is done with simple observations that an individual can make with their own senses such as sight, smell, and taste. These observations can be readily apparent or can be observed as they change over time. In addition, accessible related information about the home can also be used to narrow down the cause of your water issues.

Observations for Mercury

The symptoms for mercury exposure in the water/food include:

  • Interference with brain and nervous system function that can result in impaired speech, muscle weakness, vision problems, poor coordination, loss of peripheral vision, and a feeling of "pins and needles"  in the hands and feet. Mercury exposure is also associated with dermatitis and skin rashes, loss of memory, and mood swings. Do you remember the Mad Hatter? Men’s fur hats were popular in the mid and late 19th century.  Mercuric nitrate was used in the felting process in the manufacture of these hats, unfortunately, some of that mercury would volatilize and be inhaled by the workers.  Newark and Orange, New Jersey, had numerous hat factories which became infamous for mercury poisoning.  The poisoning was late in being recognized because the symptoms of mercury poisoning are similar to those of tuberculosis which was also common in that area at the time.  
  • Chronic exposure can lead to developmental issues related to the brain and nervous system. At high levels, there can be kidney and nervous system damage, respiratory failure and death.
  • If you are located near a manufacturer, coal processing facility or energy producer using coal, or mining related activity that uses mercury or a landfill or waste processing/ disposal system may be a source of mercury.

A recent study also suggests that timber harvesting and farming may release sequestered mercury into the environment. View related article.

Are you located in an area that is high in Mercury? Check out the USGS Map.

In the case of mercury, it is not wise to wait for symptoms. For a thorough self-diagnosis of your water check out our Self Testing Web App.

Level 1 | Self-Test Web App
To do a quick and easy self diagnosis of your water, click the button below.
Launch

Level 2 | Do-It-Yourself Testing

Level 2 Testing is Do-It-Yourself testing that can be done in your own home using a Testing Kit. After you’ve done Level 1 Testing, Level 2 Testing can confirm if your observations are correct. If your test results reveal the presence of a contaminant that is cause for concern, you can either proceed to determine the best treatment (see below) or continue to Level 3 Testing.

Notes on Level 2 Testing for Mercury

The warning signs for mercury can not be easily identified by an at-home water test. It is likely you will need to rely on observable health issues, and information about surrounding land use activities to diagnose a potential problem. For Level 2 testing, we recommend a basic at-home water screening test, hair analysis, and if you are not aware of the historic land-use, we recommend a Neighborhood Environmental Report.

Recommended Level 2 Tests
National Testing LabsWaterCheck® Standard

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View
National Testing LabsWater Check Deluxe

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View
National Testing LabsCityCheck Standard

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View
Crystal QuestDual Under-Sink Water Filter, 7-Stage

<div class="product-note in-L4-methyl-tertiary">Note: Concentrations < 40 ppb</div>

View
Crystal QuestSMART Whole-House Water Filter System

<div class="product-note in-L6-toluene">Note: If the concentration is less than 0.8 mg/L</div>

View
Recommended Products
National Testing LabsL3-NATE-W-4 | WaterCheck® Standard

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View
National Testing LabsL3-NATE-W-2 | WaterCheck Deluxe

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View
National Testing LabsL3-NATE-C-3 | CityCheck Standard

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View
Crystal QuestST-CRYS-D-06 | Dual Under-Sink Water Filter, 7-Stage

<div class="product-note in-L4-methyl-tertiary">Note: Concentrations < 40 ppb</div>

View
Crystal QuestLT-CRYS-S-01 | SMART Whole-House Water Filter System

<div class="product-note in-L6-toluene">Note: If the concentration is less than 0.8 mg/L</div>

View
Neighborhood Environmental Report

Order a Neighborhood Environmental Report to learn about potential hazards in your community.

Level 3 | Informational Testing

Level 3 Testing is done through an accredited Water Testing Laboratory. With Level 3 Testing, you can order a testing kit that is used to prepare your sample and submit it to the lab. By utilizing a lab, you have the assurance that a certified water expert had analyzed your water sample. If your test results reveal the presence of a contaminant that is cause for concern, you can either proceed to determine the best treatment options (see below) or continue to Level 4 Testing - Certified Testing.

Notes on Level 3 Testing for Mercury

For informational testing, we recommend the Water Check Standard water kit for rural landowners, but for rural landowners in agricultural areas, industrial areas, or near "fertilized fields", we recommend the Water Check Deluxe. For City Water users, we recommend the City Water Standard Kit.

Recommended Level 3 Tests
National Testing LabsWaterCheck® Standard

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View
National Testing LabsWater Check Deluxe

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View
National Testing LabsCityCheck Standard

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View
Crystal QuestDual Under-Sink Water Filter, 7-Stage

<div class="product-note in-L4-methyl-tertiary">Note: Concentrations < 40 ppb</div>

View
Crystal QuestSMART Whole-House Water Filter System

<div class="product-note in-L6-toluene">Note: If the concentration is less than 0.8 mg/L</div>

View

Level 4 | Certified Testing

A Level 4 Certified Test Test uses chain-of-custody with a water professional coming to your home to prepare the water sample and then works with an accredited laboratory in order to certify your test results. This type of testing not only gives you the highest level of assurance in the accuracy of your test results, but can also be used as a document in legal cases. For Baseline Testing, we recommend that you use Certified Testing.

Notes on Level 4 Testing for Mercury

If you are concerned about mercury and need baseline or certified testing, we strongly recommend that you complete the Diagnostic assessment, conduct an informational screening test, and order a Neighborhood Hazard Survey. With this information, we can assist in determining the type and extent of the testing that may be needed and assist in locating a suitable facility.

Neighborhood Environmental Report

Order a Neighborhood Environmental Report to learn about potential hazards in your community.

Get Treatment | Mercury

Pretreatment may be needed in some cases to ensure acceptable treatment by the primary unit. Some of the treatment technologies may not be amenable to point-of-entry, whole-house treatments. In these cases, point-of-use units may be the best option. Periodic testing should be maintained after the treatment system is in place to ensure objectives are being met and the system is operating properly. Most systems will require maintenance on at least an annual basis.

Short Term Treatment

If it appears you are experiencing a problem with mercury , do not boil your drinking water because it could volatilize the mercury and put it into the air where you could inhale it. An interim solution may be the use of a point-of-use device, using a bottled water source, or hauling in potable water. Because other contaminants may be present in the water, it would be advisable to have the water tested before and after the use of any point-of-use device.

Recommended Short-Term Treatments

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L4-methyl-tertiary">Note: Concentrations < 40 ppb</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L6-toluene">Note: If the concentration is less than 0.8 mg/L</div>

View
Contact a KnowYourH2O Recommended Professional

Concentrations above 1 ppb  Recommendation: Seek Advice from a Local Professional (Customized Solution). Contact Us

Long Term Treatment

For the long-term, it may be necessary to install a water treatment system. For mercury, the common water treatment technologies are GAC (granular activated carbon) filters, sub-micron filters that contain KDF, reverse osmosis, ion exchange resins, and distillation. Depending on the technology and the concentration of mercury and other contaminants, the system may require a number of treatment approaches and a combination of a whole-house treatment and then point-of-use treatment.

Recommended Long-Term Treatments

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L4-methyl-tertiary">Note: Concentrations < 40 ppb</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L6-toluene">Note: If the concentration is less than 0.8 mg/L</div>

View
Contact a Know Your H2O Recommended Professional

Concentrations Above 1 ppb or Not Up for A DIY? Need Help Identifying a Local Know Your H20 Team Professional? Contact Us

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