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1.A chemical element (symbol Hg), the only common liquid metal at ordinary temperature. It's a dense, mobile, silvery liquid (also called quicksilver), and found free in nature. It was known to the ancient Chinese and Hindus, and also found in Egyptian tombs of about 1500BC.

It's unfortunately also a common pollutant, its main sources being fish and cigarette smoke. The mercury that pollutes lakes and oceans is methyl mercury, a compound that's fifty times more toxic than pure mercury - it's dumped into rivers and lakes by industrial plants, such as paper mills which use it to protect paper from mould.

In Lake Erie in North America, irreversible pollution with mercury has occurred in such high levels that fishing has been strictly prohibited.

A build-up in the body can cause damage to the brain, kidneys and nervous system resulting in blindness, deafness and even paralysis.

Some nutrients, like selenium, counteract mercury in the body. Other protective nutrients are calcium, vitamins A, C, E and B complex and lecithin. Betaine HCI capsules are a good protective supplement.

It's now thought that Beethoven probably died (and his deafness could have been caused by) mercury poisoning - brought on by his love of fresh water fish.

2. An alternative name for Good King Henry. See 'Good King Henry'

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