Department of Environmental Conservation

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Mercury (Hg)

H. G. Slick Grey (Pollutant: Mercury) Air Villain

Mercury (Hg)


Air Villain: H. G. "Slick" Grey


Status: At Large

Description: (Element) Mercury is a toxic metal that breaks down slowly and takes several forms: a silver liquid; a white powder or crystal; and methylmercury, an organic form that accumulates in the food chain.

Crime: Hg may cause neurological, digestive and kidney problems. Unborn and very young children are especially sensitive.

Cause: Exposure to Hg is through contaminated air, food (especially certain fish), water and skin contact. Hg occurs naturally, but also comes from burning fossil fuels, mining, smelting, and solid waste incineration. Strict limits on municipal and medical waste incinerators decreased emissions in the Northeast by 70% between 1998 and 2002.