IT’S A shimmery, shiny substance that seems to have a mind of its own when held between one’s fingers. In the Philippines, it is commonly found in thermometers that are widely used in hospitals to check on patients’ temperatures or are sold over the counter for household use. Other medical devices, in fact, still use elemental or metallic mercury — even if this is a known toxic substance that can be absorbed by the skin and can easily penetrate biological membranes, including the blood-brain barrier. When inhaled, mercury vapors can cause neurological and behavioral disorders, and sometimes can lead to death. Even at low doses, these vapors can have harmful effects on the kidneys, and the digestive, respiratory, and immune systems.
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