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Robin Graham03/06/2019 23:33:52
945 forum posts
295 photos

This a a hypothetical question - if my imaginary friend Bob were to root around in his imaginary cellar and found a bottle containing 2.5kg of triple distilled hydragyrum would he be jeopardy of prosecution? If that actually happened of course, which is highly unlikely because Bob has a bad back and can hardly get down the stairs.


Edited By Robin Graham on 03/06/2019 23:35:47

Edited By Robin Graham on 03/06/2019 23:37:25

Frances IoM03/06/2019 23:50:32
1248 forum posts
28 photos
why - it was used in large current switches - in early 70s my university group was given an old computer that had a large bowl of mercury used in the power switch - probably about a kg maybe more - just make sure the container, preferably glass, in the mythical cellar has a good tight stopper - just in case might be worth ventilating the cellar prior to entry - if any was spilt then you may be in for an expensive clean up.
pgk pgk03/06/2019 23:57:09
2552 forum posts
293 photos

If Bob just stumbled upon an ancient bottle of the stuff that quite likely pre-dated his house move or his memory then he might get away with having someone dispose of it legally without a fee. Otherwise i dare say that he would get charged with the costs of hazardous waste disposal. All of whch is rather sad when you see the price of such an item in a purified state when legally sold on Amazon in the USA.

I'm reminded of an old bit of doggerel:

Little Willy, from his mirror, licked the mercury right off,

thinking in his childish error it would cure the whooping cough.

At the funeral his mother, brightly said to Mrs Brown:

"t'was a chilly day for Willy - when the mercury went down."


Nigel Graham 204/06/2019 00:01:49
2027 forum posts
28 photos

I have a small earthenware bottle of the stuff, too. There must be something I can use it for. Unless there are specialist metals dealers who will pay more for it than the cost of my taking it to them.

Perko704/06/2019 00:42:58
422 forum posts
33 photos

There are still a few mercury arc rectifiers in use at tramway and trolleybus museums around the world. Brisbane Tramway Museum has one with a glass chamber which is used every time they run. They used to leave the substation door open so visitors could see the glow from the glass chamber, not sure if they still do this.

duncan webster04/06/2019 00:43:43
3926 forum posts
61 photos

Friend of mine had a job to replace some mercury arc rectifiers with more modern kit. He thought he'd make a bob or two selling the mercury, quite a lot of it. Far fro it he had to pay to get rid of it. However for small quantities you could try finding someone who repairs barometers, or even some clocks had mercury n their pendulums (penduli?)

not done it yet04/06/2019 05:30:09
6733 forum posts
20 photos

Over twenty years ago someone had (almost) arranged expensive disposal of several kilos of mercury. I intervened and managed to sell it for a very handsome profit, compared to paying for disposal as hazardous waste. My boss of the time was well pleased. It will be recycled - you just cannot just make it disappear. The disposal mob would make a profit from the sale.

Back in the 1960s, the Physics lab had a tongue and grooved floor. Nearly every groove had globules of mercury in them! It is still used for dental fillings, I believe - although my grandchildren should not have that type, should they need dental treatment.

Robert Atkinson 204/06/2019 07:19:23
1195 forum posts
20 photos

To answer the original question.

Yes Bob would be liable to prosecution under the explosives precursors and poisons (EPP) regulations. Max penalty is 2 years in prison.
You now need a licence to possess many previously common chemicals. If the Hg was sealed in a valve, lamp or instrument it is exempt, but a bottle of it needs a licence. Also applies to battery acid, many plating chemicals etc. Note that it does not apply to professionals or businesses.


Robert G8RPI.

I'm not a lawyer but this one is pretty straightforward. Get professional legal advice if you need it , but I doubt there is much case law on this one yet, don't be the first.


Edited By Robert Atkinson 2 on 04/06/2019 07:19:44

Speedy Builder504/06/2019 08:03:27
2592 forum posts
207 photos

In the late 50's, we used to play with globs of mercury, sliding them to and fro along the pencil groove in the desk. Will I die now I know how bad it is for you. The story went around about an airforce lad who was guarding the aircraft stores got bored over a period of time, and used to sit in the stores with a mug of tea, cracking mercury switches like eggs into an aluminium pot. After a few weeks, the pot slowly started to leak, so to hide his missdemeanour, chucked the lot down the loo with some 'serious' consequences.

john carruthers04/06/2019 08:18:07
614 forum posts
180 photos

As an aprentice one of my jobs was to scrape the 'silvering' off the backs of old mirrors and save the scrapings in a bottle.
The mercury gradually fell to the bottom and was decanted off to be sold to 'the mercury man' who attended annually.

Alas, no more.

Kiwi Bloke04/06/2019 08:27:18
654 forum posts
1 photos

Funny that carbon and sulphur are not in the list. Latter-day Guy Fawkeses would be relieved.

Re Hg; The useful(?) link states: "These are the concentration thresholds for poisons:" - and then fails to specify any! So homeopathic concentrations might be illegal. What about sea-water?

I wonder whether the medical topical antiseptic merbromin (mercurochrome) is now illegal.

Nigel - use your mercury to remove lead-fouling from your firearms. You pour a bit into the barrel, put a bung in the breech and muzzle and shake. Then you scrape out the lead-mercury amalgam. Oh, nearly forgot - aren't firearms subject to some bureaucratic regulation too? Instead, you could make some sodium-mercury amalgam - it's a very powerful reducing agent, and, judging by the linked document, elemental Na is entirely safe...

Bureaucrats are dangerous: whilst the public slept, they have mutated from servants to masters, but their wisdom and intelligence remains lacking.

Edited By Kiwi Bloke 1 on 04/06/2019 08:45:55

Journeyman04/06/2019 09:12:52
1147 forum posts
230 photos

Still got a couple of mercury arc rectifiers in use at the Kempton Steam Museum:


Well worth a visit, but make sure they are open before travelling.


Edited By Journeyman on 04/06/2019 09:13:36

Martin Kyte04/06/2019 09:19:50
2722 forum posts
48 photos

Buy an old empty stick barometer and fill it up. This renders the mercury perfectly legal.

regards Martin

SillyOldDuffer04/06/2019 09:40:33
8490 forum posts
1891 photos

Posted by Kiwi Bloke 1 on 04/06/2019 08:27:18:.


Nigel - use your mercury to remove lead-fouling from your firearms. You pour a bit into the barrel, put a bung in the breech and muzzle and shake. Then you scrape out the lead-mercury amalgam. Oh, nearly forgot - aren't firearms subject to some bureaucratic regulation too?


Bureaucrats are dangerous: whilst the public slept, they have mutated from servants to masters, but their wisdom and intelligence remains lacking.

Kiwi Bloke has forgotten Brenton Trent...

Mike Poole04/06/2019 09:49:26
3305 forum posts
73 photos

I was told not to spend long looking at the mercury arc rectifier in our machine shop as is was a source of X rays, it lived in a steel enclosure painted Matt black inside. Apart from a dust now and again and checking the connections it was very low maintenance. I wonder if the UV would be more harmful, a dose or arc eye would be most uncomfortable.


Edited By Mike Poole on 04/06/2019 09:56:39

Samsaranda04/06/2019 09:52:27
1399 forum posts
5 photos

Mercury is pretty aggressive when in the company of aluminium, back in the 60’s when I was carrying out major servicing of Brittania aircraft in the Air Force we received an aircraft in for a major service and when we were working on it we noticed that the lower pressure skin of the fuselage was dotted with numerous small holes, it was in effect porous. It transpired that the aircraft had recently been used to carry the tools and equipment of a squadron on detachment to Canada. Packed in amongst the test equipment that they carried was a stone jar full of mercury, due to rough handling this had been smashed liberating a large amount of mercury, this being a fairly heavy element worked is way downwards through the aircraft and ended up on the outer pressure skin. It promptly eat its way through the skin, this incident went unreported until we discovered the damage on the major service, it required a large repair to re skin the underside of the fuselage in the affected area, good job we found it when we did, an explosive decompression could have resulted if the damaged area had grown in size. As an aside I remember in my teens I used to buy mercury at the local chemist and we used it for experiments, we did dabble in making and detonating explosive mixtures perhaps that enough said on that.

Dave W

pgk pgk04/06/2019 10:03:53
2552 forum posts
293 photos

When we all had to move on from mercury thermometers to electronic ones to reduce toxicity the button cells were still nickel cadmium and probably some were still DIY replaced with mercury oxide button cells.....

Kiwi Bloke04/06/2019 10:23:12
654 forum posts
1 photos

SOD; no I haven't forgotten. We are straying off the topic, however, the deranged individual you mention is best forgotten, I think. He was, to the best of my knowledge, not a bureaucrat, and it was about them that I being rude. Since you apparently take an interest in the goings-on in NZ, you probably know that a major re-write of the Arms Act was passed within a week of the atrocity. Further legislation is promised. There was no reasonable time allowed for public submissions, nor sensible parliamentry debate. The revised legislation contains a number of 'Henry VIII' clauses. These are dangerous and I would have thought incompetent in law.

74A Order in Council relating to definitions of prohibited firearm, prohibited magazine, and prohibited ammunition

The Governor-General may, by Order in Council made on the recommendation of the Minister,—

(a) amend or replace the description in section 2A of a semi-automatic firearm (except a pistol) or pump action shotgun that is a prohibited firearm:

(b) amend or replace the description in section 2B of a magazine that is a prohibited magazine:

(c) declare any semi-automatic firearm (except a pistol) or pump-action shotgun of a stated name or description to be a prohibited firearm for the purposes of this Act:

(d) declare any magazine of a stated name or description to be a prohibited magazine for the purposes of this Act:

(e) declare any ammunition to be prohibited ammunition for the purposes of this Act.

In other words, the government can re-define various terms as it thinks fit, when it thinks fit. These 'catch-all' clauses allow for any, or all firearms or ammunition to be declared illegal, on a whim. This is not a reasonable way to write legislation. The bureaucrats responsible are dangerous: a danger to reason and democracy and are no longer acting as servants of the public.

Swarf, Mostly!04/06/2019 10:46:21
645 forum posts
70 photos

Hi there, all,

There's a true horror story somewhere on the Web about a lady research worker who discovered, the hard way, that her rubber gloves weren't impervious to organic mercury (a liquid compound). Over a period, the mercury migrated to her brain, causing her motor functions and other faculties to progressively and irrevocably deteriorate with eventual fatal consequence! The quantity involved was very small.

So, I reckon, mercury in any form is stuff to be treated with extreme care.

Having written that, one of my retirement projects was to renovate a Kew Pattern barometer. It was ex-RAF surplus and I'd bought it, semi-derelict, from the H.W.English emporium in Essex. At that time, I was well short of retirement age and I steadily accumulated mercury, mostly from the ampoules on Londex relays bought from surplus dealers. Eventually, I had about 1½ kilos.

The barometer needed a new tube but glass-blowing was not one of my skills and I couldn't locate an affordable tube. Then, as I approached my 80s, I realised that I was going to have to cull some of the items on my list of retirement projects. The tube problem put the barometer renovation high on the list!

By this time, mercury's status as an undesirable possession had risen enormously. I was determined to dispose of it safely but fearful that 'putting my head above the parapet' might lead to our street being invaded by the men in space suits!!!!

Eventually, I decided that I had to do something. A web search gave the addresses for several waste disposal companies but a friend with connections in the recycling industry spoke of the need for special 'flasks' for conveyance of mercury. (I think these are for large quantities - small quantities didn't seem to be catered for. )

Then I was advised that a few of the household waste disposal sites (aka ' tip' ) in my County have special licenses to accept limited quantities of hazardous materials. These are principally intended to deal with stuff like bleach or Roundup. Nothing venture, nothing gained, so I carefully double-packed my mercury and offered it to the nearest licensed site. Much to my relief, the site operator accepted it with zero ceremony. You'd have thought visits like mine were an every day occurrence.

So, if you are in a similar situation, don't despair. Look at your County's web-site and see if your local waste disposal sites are similarly licensed.

Best regards,

Swarf, Mostly!

P.S.: I don't live in Essex these days.

Rik Shaw04/06/2019 10:59:34
1480 forum posts
398 photos

In the 50's our science master often poured some out on a surface so we could roll it around with our fingers and get a "feel" for it. It does not seem to have affected my health.

On the other hand, this was the same master who blew up the science lab with me and other boys in situ. Now that DID hurt. Lots of ambulances, smoke, blood, burns, and a stay in hospital.

Still, I expect that the school thought that this sort of thing along with bloody boxing bouts on a wednesday and British Bulldog in the playground hardened us up ready for WW3.

Just in case there was any doubt, being involved in one of the regular bleeding nosed punch ups in the "play" ground would result in both combatants being "slippered" . That meant two hefty and painful thwacks on ones rear end administered by a particularly sadistic gym master wielding an old PE plimsoll.

Here, years on, it occurs to me that I witnessed far more danger and violence at that school than in in my entire service in the army.


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