This article is from the Amalgam-Related Illness FAQ, by Leif Hedegard.
The WHO Study Group writes about occupational exposure to mercury vapour in the air:
"Exposure in the range of 25 to 80 ug/m3... increases the incidence of certain less severe toxic effects that do not lead to overt clinical impairment. These subtle effects are defects in psychomotor performance, objectively detectable tremor, and evidence of impair nerve conduction velocity, which are present only in particularly sensitive individuals. The occurrence of several subjective symptoms, such as fatigue, irritability, and loss of appetite, is also increased... Some of the exposed people develop proteinuria" (WHO 1991 p 111).
Occupational exposure to 25 (80) ug Hg / m3 air would correspond to a daily dose of somewhere about 100-200 (300-600) ug / day (8 h / day, 5 days / week, 48 weeks / year, breathing of 1-2 m3 of air per hour containing 25 (80) ug Hg / m3 of which 80% is absorbed in the lung alveoli's). The industrial threshold value of 50 ug Hg / m3 air would correspond to a daily dose of somewhere around 200-400 ug / day. The uptake of 3-17 ug Hg / day that is reported for normal amalgam-bearing people from their amalgam-fillings, on a group level (WHO 1991), is according to the above about 1/5-1/200 of the dose (100-600 ug Hg / day) where, sub-clinical to clinical, health effects, on a group level, have been reported in persons occupationally exposed to inorganic mercury. Few persons have higher uptake of mercury reported from their amalgam. Barregard (1995) stated that it is possible to get maybe as much 100 ug Hg / day from, as it seems, amalgam-fillings, probably the mechanism in this case is heavy bruxism and / or chewing gum use. People using (nicotine) chewing gum has been reported to be at risk of obtaining raised mercury dosage from their amalgam (Sallsten 1996).
Some medicines, vaccine, contact lens solutions... contain mercury. Look for the words; thiomersal, merthiolate or words with; -mer- or hydrarg in the information about them. Usually they are preservatives, the amounts are not high enough to affect people other than those who use a lot of medicine and / or are extra sensitive to mercury. However, patients with hypogammaglobulin, who receive IgG with mercury as a preservative, can be at risk of getting raised (>30 ug / l) mercury levels in urine (Haeney 1979).
Mercury has been used, in humans, as mercuric chloride solution under operations to kill cancer cells implanted on healthy tissue (Laundy 1984) or as a local antiseptic ("Merbromine" - Registered Trade Mark) (Slee 1979), as far as I know this still IS the case sometimes - the mercury amount absorbed here IS enough to cause intoxication in some cases. An organic mercury, thiomersal, has been used as antiseptic to treat infants with omphaloceles whereby sometimes levels of mercury usually looked upon as toxic levels were induced in blood and organs of the infants (Fagan 1977).
There are soaps / creams sold to lighten ones skin. These soaps / creams can sometimes contain 1-10 % mercury as one ingredient. These amounts of mercury can cause intoxication. Mercury containing soaps / creams are banned in most countries in the western world. (WHO 1991).
Mercury is used as preservative in some latex paints. When painting with such a paint the air-mercury-levels will rise and stay that way for weeks-months (Aranow 1990, Beusterien 1991). However, usually, not to such high levels that it has been shown to affect normal people. However, if you have a raised sensitivity towards mercury you should know about it, because there is mercury-free latex paint available.
Old mirrors could be coated with amalgam (by definition, amalgam always consists of mercury and other metals) on the back side. If it is so, they are normally not painted on the back side. Silver-coated mirrors on the other hand are normally painted on the back side. A mercury-mirror will liberate mercury as mercury vapour (Hadsund 1993), but again far from the amount enough to affect normal people.
Yes, mercury spill will result in vaporisation of the mercury before the mercury is properly cleaned up / eliminated. Even spill of the small amount of mercury in a thermometer, not properly cleaned up, has been reported to cause intoxication in young children (Cloarec 1995, von MÃ¼hlendahl 1990). To clear spilled mercury; try to pick it up with some instrument and poor it into a bottle filled with water. Then seal the bottle and get rid of it (in an environmentally correct way). Then if there is any remaining mercury: use powdered sulphur or finely divided zinc and spread it all over the area where it is suspected to be remaining mercury. Brush it up - do not use a vacuum cleaner (will blow mercury up in the air and the vacuum cleaner will be contaminated). If you finally (after successful total mercury recover) use the vacuum cleaner, immediately dispose the vacuum-cleaner bag after the cleaning is finished as an extra precaution. If the mercury has been spilled on something from which it is difficult to remove it entirely, for example a rugged carpet it is usually recommended to get rid of the mercury-contaminated object if possible, otherwise (as for wooden floors with slots...) try to decontaminate it and then monitor the air-mercury-levels nearby to check if they have decreased to an acceptable level. It is really not dangerous to get mercury on your hands if; A) it is a once in your life experience and nothing you do every day, B) you are not oversensitive to mercury, and C) you wash your hands as soon as possible after the contact with mercury.
It has been reported that people occupationally exposed to mercury can, non-voluntarily, bring mercury home (probably in / on there clothes / shoes) in such amount that raised urinary mercury levels (25 ug / l compared to a control group who had 5 ug / l) can be detected in their children (Hudson 1987).
Also make sure to read these books: Poison in Your Teeth: Mercury Amalgam (Silver) Fillings...Hazardous to Your Health! and Mercury Detoxification by Tom McGuire