How mercury is used in our daily lives

Some of the most well-known uses of mercury are in blood pressure monitors and thermometers, but mercury has been used from ancient times in a variety of applications close to our lives.

Mercury use in the past

Age / Place How mercury was used
Ancient Egypt
(Around B.C.3000 ~ B.C.30)
Medicine to give the ruler eternal life.
Antiseptic for mummies
Ancient China
(Around B.C. 21st Century – B.C. 3 Century)
Elixir of immortality
Chinese medicine (Still in use)
Cinnabar pigment
 
Ancient Japan
(Latter half of 4th Century – first half of 7th Century)
Pigment for red paint on ancient tombs and stone coffins
(The red of cinnabar was considered sacred and noble)
 
Nara period
(8th Century)
Gold coating on the Great Buddha of Nara

Current uses of mercury

Until recently mercury has been a useful substance with a variety of applications. However, the occurrence of Minamata disease raised our understanding of its strong toxicity and now the use of mercury will soon be restricted.
Under the Minamata Convention on Mercury, adopted in 2013, the manufacture, import or export of mercury and equipment containing mercury will be prohibited globally in 2020.
In Japan, the Ministry of the Environment, local governments, and doctors’ associations play a central role in the collection of mercury products and promote activities leading to a mercury-free society.