Mercury in Photography Today

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by Francis in VT, Jun 12, 2009.

  1. Francis in VT

    Francis in VT Member

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    I am aware of the problems with Mercury.
    Here is the question:
    Is Mercury used at all in any of the alternate processes.
    I am in possession of a small quantity, about 3-4 oz. liquid measure. What do I do with it?
     
  2. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Why not contact your local poison control center. Also, if you have any nearby universities or colleges, they will have a waste disposal program for such materials.
     
  3. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    It is still used in making daguerreotypes, but that's something you don't start up casually just to use a few ounces of mercury.
     
  4. Lukas Werth

    Lukas Werth Member

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    mercury chloride makes the best negative intensifier there is.
     
  5. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    I've seen mercuric chloride in some toner recipes, but it is nothing that I've wanted to fool around with, and I've never heard of a use for straight mercury besides daguerrotypes.
     
  6. Shakey

    Shakey Member

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    Well u can make a mercury intensifier that looks pretty cool although i just found the recipe and it aint wat i thought it was but here it is anyway!

    Mercury chloride powder 13g
    Magnesium sulphate purified powder 60g
    Potassium Iodide USP granular 30g
    Sodium Sulphite anhydrous (desiccated) 15g
     
  7. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    But the OP has liquid mercury.

    Steve
     
  8. Shakey

    Shakey Member

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    i did notice that but as my chemistry isn't that good and don't know how easy it is to form i just wrote it anyway
     
  9. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Liquid mercury is virtually useless in any photo process except Dauguerrotypes.

    As for mercury salts, it is critical to know whether you need mercurIC or mercurOUS salts as one will work and the other will not in a particular formulation. So, in the intensifier formula above, the salt is ambiguous as the ending on the word is not correct chemically.

    PE
     
  10. Lukas Werth

    Lukas Werth Member

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    Right; it is mercuric chloride, of course.
     
  11. wildbillbugman

    wildbillbugman Member

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    Hi,
    Perhaps Kirk can "keep it with his". You might contact Photographer's Formulary to get in touch with Jerry Sp....? He teaches a workshop there that teaches you to make something kinda sorta like a Dag.,but dose not involve mercury. But Jerry dose privately make his own real Dags. He may take it off your hands.
    Bill
     
  12. richard ide

    richard ide Member

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    I imagine that there are serious regulations regarding the transport of metallic mercury. IIRC you don't ever want it near an airplane in case of a spill. I believe that mercury or the vapour acts as a catalyst which causes aluminum to break down or oxidize. When i was young, I put some mercury in an aluminum dish and a couple of days later; there was a white mass surrounding the mercury and the aluminum was seriously pitted. I have about 10 lbs that I should look into recycling.
     
  13. ricksplace

    ricksplace Member

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    Try your local gunsmith. Liquid mercury was often used to clean leading and copper deposits from gun barrels. While the gunsmith can't sell it anymore, I'll bet he knows someone who would love to get his hands on the stuff.
     
  14. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Again, I'd ask that you not dispose of it yourself. Contact a chemistry department near you and see if they can put it into their disposal process. Speaking as someone who sees such things now and then at my school, I really wouldn't mind if somebody dropped it off anonymously for professional disposal. I'd rather have that than have it wind up in some landfill. Likewise batteries. Most schools have procedures in place to deal with such things.

    Mercury is one of the very most serious environmental concerns, and the reasons for that are only just now becoming more clear. The organic compounds of mercury are especially hazardous; the pure metal form isn't so bad but can become equally hazardous if stored improperly or reacted with various other things. Generally the mercury compounds are one of very few things that can easily cross the blood brain barrier and remain fixed (perhaps un-chelatably fixed), which gives rise to all manner of speculation and ongoing research regarding role(s) in mental illness. Various forms also can pass through plastics very easily- and at least one expert chemist perished while researching this very point. She got an invisible quantity absorbed via a glove, which wasn't even torn. That was dimethyl mercury, IIRC, one of the very worst chemicals you can come into contact with.

    While I respect the goals of some to do daguerreotypes and such, 99.44% of us have no business having this stuff on our shelves. I am really not even sure that I respect the right of any individual to have it on their shelf. I have all manner of potions in my lab and in even in that case I try to keep the very highest levels of safety; I'd certainly not keep it or chromium intensifier etc. in a home darkroom. I also am not so sure it's a good idea to pass the stuff on to some enthusiast who may or may not handle it properly. The more mercury we can put out of commission, the better. We shouldn't pass it on as a favour or try to keep the price low by trading it around... the price on it should be very high because disposal is very very difficult. It's bad enough that all the enviro-idiots without degrees are telling us to fill our homes with CFLs before there is any legislation to deal with the mercury waste. Let's not contribute even more to the environment.

    When Jack Mitchell died, I had the task of going through his darkroom. Boy oh boy did Jack have some items! Glowing items. All manner of the nastiest photographic potions imaginable- and most of them completely untouched in many decades. Took our enviro folks quite a long while to get it all out. But they did handle it all safely and professionally. Really folks, let the pros do their thing, it's what they do.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 13, 2009