ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




Mercury oxide, mercury oxide red, mercury oxide yellow.
Use a fume hood.
Avoid skin and eye contact.
Avoid inhalation of the vapour or powder.
Keep away from light.
Keep away from heat.
Wash hands thoroughly after handling.
white crystals or white powder. Decomposes on exposure to light. HEALTH HAZARD DATA Highly toxic substance that may be absorbed into the body by inhalation or ingestion. It is a corrosive substance to the eyes and respiratory tract and may cause lung oedema. Serious cases can be fatal. Acute exposure to the eyes causes redness, pain and blurred vision. Skin contact causes localised redness and pain. Inhalation causes sore throat, coughing, shortness of breath and laboured breathing. Ingestion causes sore throat, metallic taste, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.
Skin ­ remove contaminated clothing and immediately wash the affected area with large amounts of water until all evidence of the chemical has been removed (approximately 15 minutes). If irritation or pain persist seek medical attention.
Eyes ­ immediately wash the affected eye with large amounts of water until all evidence of the chemical has been removed (approximately 15 minutes). If irritation or pain persist seek medical attention.
Inhalation ­ remove from the area of exposure to fresh air. If breathing has ceased apply artificial respiration. If breathing is laboured give oxygen. Keep warm and allow to rest. Seek immediate medical attention.
Ingestion ­ rinse the mouth with water and give plenty of water to drink. Induce vomiting by touching a finger to the back of the throat then seek immediate medical attention.
Heating produces toxic mercury vapour and oxygen which will support combustion. Light causes decomposition into toxic mercury vapour and oxygen.
Store in the dark in a cool, dry atmosphere away from heat.
Use a fume hood to keep the level of exposure to the vapour below the recommended threshold, ie. 0.05ppm (NH & MRC, Australia). If exposure is expected to exceed this threshold then a respirator is recommended. Wear protective clothing. A long sleeved laboratory coat or gown, rubber gloves, safety goggles and a face mask as a minimum standard.
The toxicity of mercury is such that the element and its compounds should not be allowed to contaminate air or water.
Rubber gloves, laboratory coat and self contained breathing apparatus.
Collect all droplets and pools immediately using a suction pump and an aspirator bottle, with a long capillary tube. Cover fine droplets in non accessible cracks, with calcium polysulphide and excess sulphur. Combine all contaminated mercury in a tightly stoppered bottle. Hold it for purification or sale.
Compounds: dissolve all water soluble contaminated compounds. Convert other contaminated compounds to the soluble nitrates. Adjust the acidity and precipitate as mercuric sulphide. Wash and dry the precipitate.


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