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Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by Stephen Frizza, Apr 11, 2014.
Does anyone here actively use mercury in any of their photographic processes?
Do mercury thermometers count?
I've read of Victor's Mercury Intensifier (in the book "Darkroom") but I'm frankly too afraid of mercury to be near it if it's not in a thermometer.
I avoid metol, selenium, BZT, ... etc.,
I've used a Mercury II on occasion...
There is the character in Alice In Wonderland, the Mad Hatter. Typically hatters would eventually experience neurological symptoms because of the mercury compounds used in making felt. Mercury (II) compounds are extremely dangerous. So is mercury vapor and organomercury compounds.
As a young kid I lived near a lighthouse which was built at the turn of last century. They thought it would be a good idea to have the gears of the light lens lubricated by a bath of mercury i used to love looking at the liquid though the holes in the lamp room floor. now they give warnings to people who visit that there is mercury present but back then i had no idea about the dangers. I't was just very pretty silver liquid.
Ken Nelson, who has some work on this site: http://www.newdags.com/thissite.html
He gave a great mercury daguerrotype demonstration a couple of years ago at the North West Alternative Photography Symposium held at Bellevue Washington, USA.
I have safely stored in my darkroom 1,039.5 grams (2.29 pounds) of elemental liquid mercury, although I've never used it photographically. It's a long story...
i guess if anyone is making traditional Daguerreotypes, they would use mercury fumes to develop them.
Between the mercury and the iodine, I'll leave that to more "adventurous" people!
When I sensitize a calotype by floating potassium iodide soaked paper in a solution of acetic acid and silver nitrate, at first the back of the paper becomes marbled before it clears and becomes silver iodide. I don't know for sure, but I think that might be elemental iodine showing up for a minute. That's probably as close as I want to get to iodine or mercury!
My thermometer has alcohol in it, a nice pretty blue color....
Iodine is an essential element for human life when present in the right amounts and form. Table salt is iodized to prevent goiter, which is caused by not having enough iodine in your diet.
Completely avoiding iodine is like having "carbon free sugar."
Back on topic here... Other than in a mercury thermometer, I also avoid mercury when possible.
yes! I meant elemental iodine like used to fume the silver for daguerreotypes. Then they go into a mercury fume chamber for development!
I'm not giving up on mercury in my darkroom or processes. I have stockpiled a few gallons and well stocked up on old thermometers to last to the end of my journey. I started in 1965 and still going with no plans of quitting anytime soon. My skin is still "pink" and my brain is still functioning within normal paramaters.
People have become so sensitized to so many things in the past 30 years. We played with mercury in school in our bare hands passing the blob from student to student. Sometimes it got dropped and tiny little beads went everywhere with no ill effects. Today IF mercury was even found inthe building the whole school would be shut down by hazmat teams.
[Moderator's note: Off topic discussion deleted]
I'm getting rid of my mercury as fast as I can...
Heres a guy drinking some.
It's from a news clip shot at a factory which uses mercury. Plant manager drinks it to show how safe it is. It's supposedly poorly absorbed by the body in this form.
The poison is in the dose. Completely avoiding it is bad, but splashing about naked in large puddles and drinking glasses of it are bad too.
Yeah, to some extent. Elemental Mercury is not super dangerous-- in that form it's poorly absorbed into human tissue, so repeated exposure would be bad, but limited exposure wouldn't be all that bad.
I'm sure most of us fairly regularly come into contact with more harmful substances than elemental mercury. Cleaning up after broken mercury thermometer is safer than cleaning up any number of household chemicals.
However, Mercury vapors, as well as many common Mercury compounds are much more readily absorbed through the lungs and skin... organic compounds of Mercury are the most dangerous.
Interestingly, Selenium can bond to Mercury compounds, and prevent absorption into the blood... So maybe darkroom users have an advantage here
I toyed with mercury (rolling it on one hand over to the other one and back again when I was a kid.) I often wonder how many of my current aches and pains and dread diseases can be traced to that. Does my back pain stem from skydiving in the 1950s? Are my lung problems due to working in wet darkrooms for years beginning in the 1950s? Do my feet cause me pain because I chased all those redheads in my callow youth? Who can say? But I would be careful with mercury.
I've used Mercury in just about all forms and have had no problems just by taking proper precautions. It was used in most emulsions along with Cadmium until about 1970. It was used to help give warm tones to emulsions as was the Cadmium. Lead and Copper were also used.
We still use Lead batteries in some items.
Elemental Mercury gives off hazardous fumes as does Iodine, but we still use both as salts or in solution as germicides.
not a mercury but a lincoln
Recently I got me a mercury switch from the fleamarket for reason of one-day-I-might-need-it.
(I guess I can dispose of it better than that person at the market anyway. But strictly speaking it is another hazard in house.)
But I guess I will not start with Mercury intensifier.
Liquid mercury is no more hazardous than many household chemicals...many of us played with it as kids, and, in amalgam form with other metal, many of us have it in our dental fillings. A few years ago there was a panic about possible health effects of the latter, but my dental practitioner assured me that they are harmless during a person's natural lifetime, and there would likely be more problems in removing and replacing with less durable fillings.
Of course, mercury compounds like the oxides, etc., are very different in nature, and can be highly poisonous.
It's like common salt, sodium chloride. Useful stuff, but consider sodium and chlorine separately and you have a highly reactive and poisonous metal and
a poisonous and corrosive gas. Chemical compounds are very different to their elements, in good or bad ways.
Mercury forms what are called amalgams, a type of alloy with many metals including silver and gold. In this form the mercury is bound tightly to the other metal and not capable of generating much vapor. This is the reason that mercury fillings were safe. Also mercury oxidizes rather quickly in air and the oxide coats the mercury and lowers its vapor pressure. However if the mercury moves then the oxide coating must reform. For mercury spills in the lab the area was dusted with sulfur which had the same effect.
The trick of rubbing a new copper penny with mercury to make it look like a dime is an old parlor magician's trick. Of course the penny looks like a penny the next day and is no longer silver in appearance. Speaking of magic, when I was young you could buy what were called Pharaoh's serpent eggs. These were small balls or cones about the size of a large pea made of mercuric thiocyanate mixed with gum Arabic. When the egg was ignited it formed a long curly ash which looked like a small serpent coming out of the egg. The ash was composed of mercuric oxide.
Liquid mercury was also mixed with chalk, gum Arabic and a bit of water and formed into small pills. They were called "blue pills" and were used by doctors for a number of conditions including as a powerful laxative. I wonder what the idiot in the video drinking mercury was doing the next day.
At least in the short term the redheads seem more dangerous than the mercury.
I used to employ both mercury and uranium intensifier. Both are wonderfully effective, but a bit scary. Mercuric chloride in particular is quite nasty stuff - I still have a jar of it on the shelf, but haven't touched it in years.