|Molar mass||230.66 g mol−1|
|Density||2.961 g mL−1|
|Melting point||−43 °C (−45 °F; 230 K)|
|Boiling point||93 to 94 °C (199 to 201 °F; 366 to 367 K)|
Refractive index (nD)
Std enthalpy of
|57.9–65.7 kJ mol−1|
|GHS signal word||DANGER|
|H300, H310, H330, H373, H410|
|P260, P264, P273, P280, P284, P301+310|
|EU classification||T+ N|
|R-phrases||R26/27/28, R33, R50/53|
|S-phrases||(S1/2), S13, S28, S36, S45|
|Flash point||5 °C (41 °F; 278 K)|
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
|what is: / ?)(|
Dimethylmercury ((CH3)2Hg) is an organomercury compound. This colorless liquid is one of the strongest known neurotoxins. It is described as having a slightly sweet smell, although inhaling enough vapor to detect its odor would be hazardous.
Synthesis, structure, reactions
- HgCl2 + 2 LiCH3 → Hg(CH3)2 + 2 LiCl
The molecule adopts a linear structure with Hg-C bond lengths of 2.083 Å.
The most striking feature of the compound is its nonreactivity toward water, whereas the corresponding organocadmium and organozinc compounds hydrolyze rapidly. The difference reflects the low affinity of Hg(II) for oxygen ligands. The compound reacts with mercuric chloride to give the mixed chloro-methyl compound:
- (CH3)2Hg + HgCl2 → 2 CH3HgCl
Dimethylmercury currently has almost no applications because of the risks involved. As with many methyl-organometallics, it is a methylating agent that can donate its methyl groups to an organic molecule; however, the development of less acutely toxic nucleophiles such as dimethylzinc and trimethylaluminium, and the subsequent introduction of Grignard reagents (organometallic halides), has essentially rendered this compound obsolete in organic chemistry. It was formerly studied for reactions in which the methylmercury cation was bonded to the target molecule, forming potent bactericides; however, the bioaccumulation and ultimate toxicity of methylmercury has largely led it to be abandoned for this purpose in favor of the related ethylmercury cation, which perform a similar function without the bioaccumulation hazard.
Dimethylmercury is extremely toxic and dangerous to handle. Absorption of doses as low as 0.1 mL can result in severe mercury poisoning. The risks are enhanced because of the high vapor pressure of the liquid.
Dimethylmercury passes through latex, PVC, butyl, and neoprene within seconds, and is very quickly absorbed through the skin. Due to its chemical nature, it carries with it a high aptitude for its effortless ability to pass through the same safety equipment and barriers that prevent lab accidents such as direct bodily contact (skin; eyes; oral) that have proved to be adequate protection for a majority of laboratory chemical substances.
Therefore, due to its high efficiency in penetrating skin barriers, the most common gloves used in a majority of laboratories and/or clinical settings do not provide adequate protection from dimethylmercury. It's widely understood and accepted that the only safe precaution is to handle dimethylmercury while wearing highly resistant laminated gloves; adding long-cuffed neoprene or other heavy-duty gloves over the first pair. Also indicated when handling this highly dangerous substance, is the consistent use of a long face shield, added to the safety measure of working under a fume hood.
Dimethylmercury crosses the blood–brain barrier easily, probably owing to formation of a complex with cysteine. It is eliminated from the organism slowly, and therefore has a tendency to bioaccumulate. The symptoms of poisoning may be delayed by months, resulting in many cases in which a diagnosis was ultimately discovered, but only at the point in which it is often too late for an effective treatment regimen to be successful.
The toxicity of dimethylmercury was highlighted with the death of the inorganic chemist Karen Wetterhahn of Dartmouth College in 1997, 10 months after spilling no more than a few drops of this compound on her latex-gloved hand; the barrier was immediately compromised and within a few seconds it was absorbed into the back of her hand, quickly circulating and resulting in her later death (+10 months).
- Mercury poisoning
- Karen Wetterhahn
- Minamata disease
- Cyclopentadienyl nickel nitrosyl
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- Holleman, A. F.; Wiberg, E. (2001). Inorganic Chemistry. San Diego: Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-352651-5.
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- "Delayed Toxic Syndromes" (pdf). Terrorism by Fear and Uncertainty. ORAU.
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- "The Karen Wetterhahn story". Retrieved 1 September 2014.
- ATSDR - ToxFAQs: Mercury
- ATSDR - Public Health Statement: Mercury
- ATSDR - ALERT! Patterns of Metallic Mercury Exposure, 6/26/97
- ATSDR - MMG: Mercury
- ATSDR - Toxicological Profile: Mercury
- National Pollutant Inventory - Mercury and compounds Fact Sheet