methyl mercury

Chuck Miller rellim at MAILHOST.TCS.TULANE.EDU
Wed Sep 10 10:55:29 EST 1997

>Anybody done any work with methyl mercury? There's some confusion as to
>whether dimethyl mercury and methyl mercury are synonymous. As I
>understand it (not a chemist), Hg has three oxidation states. The usual one
>is +2 when one Hg atom loses two electrons and can combine with either
>two -1 species or one -2 species. There's also a +1 state but it involves
>one +2 Hg ion and one neutral Hg atom to produce an (Hg2) +1. Is this
>close to right?
>Now, the dimethyl mercury is easy (Me)2Hg but is it possible that there
>is a Me(Hg2) (sorry about the symbols) which is the real bad "methyl
>What safety protocols are you using? Need to know because my wife may
>start research on it soon.

All forms of Hg are toxic and should be treated as such.

A cautionary tale of (di)methyl mercury toxicity (leading to the death of a
prominent metal chemist/toxicologist, Dr. Karen Wetterhahn of Dartmouth
University) appears in the September '97 issue of Scientific American on
page 20.

I suggest that your wife and all other researchers involved in the project
should go over all protocols with the safety officers at the institution
before proceeding with actual experiments. The safety officers should be
able to obtain and provide documented safety protocols for all substances
used in research--that is their job. All employees should have "Right to
Know" access to this information.

Dr. Charles A. Miller, rellim at mailhost.tcs.tulane.edu
Bionet.toxicology news group:
Dept. Environmental Health Sciences, SL29
Center for Bioenvironmental Research
Tulane Univ. School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
1430 Tulane Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70112

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