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Mercury is a naturally occurring metal found throughout the environment. It exists in three forms: metallic or elemental mercury; inorganic mercury; and organic mercury. In its metallic form, it is the familiar shiny, silver-white odorless liquid used in thermometers. At room temperature, it can evaporate to form mercury vapor. When mercury combines with other elements such as chlorine, sulfur, and oxygen, it forms inorganic mercury or mercury salts. Organic mercury is formed when mercury combines with carbon. The most common organic mercury compound is methylmercury. Mercury enters the environment from the breakdown of rocks and soil, from volcanic activity, and from human activity such as mining and burning coal.

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This effort is supported by funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Environmental Public Health Tracking Program, Cooperative Agreement Number 5U38EH000619-02. The contents of this Website are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.