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Old 11-10-2004, 10:21 AM   #1
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Red face Aluminum and mercury- arch enemies

There is an interesting article in "Popular Science" Oct 2004, on the effects that mercury has on aluminum, pp90. "The Amazing Rusting Aluminum. " Mercury is it's arch-enemy. If you happen to bring some mercury, like in a barometer) on a plane, and the mercury gets out, the plane will dissolve before it can land! Sounds impossible but true. Check out popsci.com/h20 for a video of the destruction of an alumin I beam that was turned to dust in a couple of hours from a small amount of mercury paste. (does anyone else with an AS worry about this stuff? Obviously I have too much free time) It's only the aluminum oxide rust that "forms a protective coating that's chemically identical to sapphire" that's molecules thick. MOLECULES THICK, nothing that a good scratch couldn't remove.

The article talks about rumors of WW2 spies sent into Germany to put a small paste on the airplanes and they dissolved past use. (OH NO! now there is a new worry for airplane suicide arabs! Hope this doesn't give anyone ideas.).

I combined this with the lastest Natural Resources Defence Council mag with an article from Robt F. Kennedy, Jr who monitors the health of the Hudson River valley, which has a massive problem with mercury poisoning. He even tested himself and found out he had twice the acceptable amounts of mercury stored in his body. It was determined that coal factories were the main problem with putting mercury into the air, and then into the water and food chain.
Is this why newer airstreams have a protective coating on them? Or are changing to paint? When we polish off the protective oxide covering to get the really shiny look that we all love, does this open the AS to aluminum corroding? Does the Walbernising leave a protective coating??
I put those 2 articles together, and wonder how the high levels of mercury in the air and water would affect our AS??. (notice I am not worrying about us people)

And ,for heaven's sake, don't break an old mercury thermomitor in your Airstream! And try not to live downstream from a coal factory, when polishing it!!!

Any thoughts on this, especially from people who know more than I do. This is a case of a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. silver suz
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Old 11-10-2004, 10:33 AM   #2
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I'm not sure but I don't think polishing the AS will open it up to attack from different forms of pollution. It seems like I read that when you polish the alclad metal, you are not taking anything off but rather rearranging the coating, only the small amount of oxidation comes off.

I read the article by RFK, Jr. in the last issue of Mother Earth News, the mercury thing is something for everyone to be concerned about, especially since the current administration has chosen to roll back rules limiting acceptible mercury standards that were set by the previous administration.
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Old 11-10-2004, 11:09 AM   #3
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I seriously doubt that your mercury thermometer is that dangerous, all by itself. (its all a matter of "concentration" of said material.) however, when we ALL get together and throw them away in the trash, along with batteries, etc...it builds up and we have a problem.

(also, most 'barometers" don't use mercury...and every airplane in existance has a barometer installed in the dash board, except we call them "altimeters"...not the "mercury" type, though ).

"hydrogen peroxide" is another example of an extremely dangerous chemical, in its concentrated form. it will disolve any organic material almost instantly. however, in its common, highly-diluted form, it is a harmless, and very useful disinfectant.

and watch out for this stuff: http://www.dhmo.org
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Old 11-10-2004, 11:20 AM   #4
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And ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by chuck
(also, 'barometers" don't use mercury...and every airplane in existance has a barometer installed in the dash board, except we call them "altimeters". ).
Airplanes don't have "dash boards", they have instrument panels.
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Old 11-10-2004, 11:49 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pahaska
Airplanes don't have "dash boards", they have instrument panels.
but of course. how silly of me!

hey, did I tell ya? I finally made it to the Air & Space Museum, last week. very cool!
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Old 11-10-2004, 01:11 PM   #6
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You are right, sorry, Paul and Ann, the RFK jr article WAS in Mother Earth. And, yes, I am VERY concerned about chemical pollution in humans. The new regulations about how much (and what kind of) fish can be eaten is downright scary (no more tunafish sandwiches for kids)., because of mercury pollution.

And only a "representative of a national meterorological bureau " can be licensed to bring a barometer with mercury on board a plane. But if they are THAT concerned about the amount of mercury in one barometer, makes one wonder how much mercury it would take. And how do the security guards at airport checkpoints check for that? Are there mercury dectecters? "The few micron-thick layer of aluminum oxide is the only thing holding the plane together""". the guy who wrote the article can be found at www.periodictabletable.com (that's table twice) Does anyone know how much is "a small amount of mercury paste" it would take? Is mercury a monitored item? The picture of the aluminum I beam turning to dust is VERY impressive.
Glad to know about hydrogen peroxide as I gargle with it. silver suz
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Old 11-10-2004, 02:36 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pahaska
Airplanes don't have "dash boards", they have instrument panels.
Not many cars have 'dashboards' anymore either; I think they've adopted the more modern 'instrument panel' terminology. They phased it out when they started putting padding and upholstry on them.

Where did the word dashboard come from, anyway?

If you say dashboard nowdays, people think you're talking about a browser or utility interface.
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Old 11-10-2004, 02:46 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markdoane
Where did the word dashboard come from, anyway?
A board placed on the fore part of a carriage, sleigh, or other vehicle, to intercept water, mud, or snow, thrown up by the heels of the horses.

I guess it was probably worse when they were dashing.

John
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Old 11-10-2004, 02:56 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markdoane
Where did the word dashboard come from, anyway?

{cliff clavin hat /on}

Dashboard
1. A board placed on the fore part of a carriage, sleigh, or other vehicle, to intercept water, mud, or snow, thrown up by the heels of the horses;

"...dashing through the snow...in a one horse open sleigh....o'er the fields we go...."

I guess since some of the early car builders were originally "carriage builders" alot of carriage terminology was ported over to the auto industry...

Anyway, I mis-spoke before, and have since edited my post. there is such a thing as a mercury barometer. but I don't think its a "dime-store" type item. maybe it is...I just have a really hard time believing that something so commonplace would be that accutely hazzardous...if it was, this type of thing would have happened by accident already. I found the article on popular mechanics, and it sort of reeks of alarmist propaganda. It may be absolutely true that a "small amount of mercury paste" could do terrible things to an airplane...but what the heck is "mercury paste"? what is the concentration of chemical required? how commonplace is this stuff? and what does it do to paint/primer? possibly nothing. most surfaces of aircraft aren't left bare anymore. I'm just guessing. but I could also say, and be 100% true and correct, that "inhaling small amounts of dihydrogen monoxide will kill you almost instantly". I could also say that "dyhydrogen monoxide is a highly corrosive industrial solvent". those statements are absolutely true...but they imply something that is not true: that this is some sort of sinister chemical, and all contact with or use of it should be avoided.

And speaking of Nazis...they experimented with rocket powered airplanes that used pure hydrogen peroxide as the fuel...when one of them crashed and became soaked with its own fuel, they couldn't even find the pilot. he just disolved. But its perfectly safe to gargle with, at .03% concentration, the other 99.97% being distilled dyhydrogen monoxide.

(its either 3%, .3%...teeny-tiny amount. "a little dab'l do ya".).
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Old 11-11-2004, 07:53 PM   #10
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An employee in a medical office spilled a couple of drops of mercury from a wall mounted blood pressure cuff, and I mean a couple of drops. They called the local hazmat team to find out what to do and all hell broke loose. The office was closed and it cost them over $ 16,000.00 to clean it up. The employee got a job well done for reporting the spill. The employee no longer works there. Wonder why?
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Old 11-11-2004, 09:32 PM   #11
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It's funny how things change. When I was 12 or 13, (I'm now 50) a friend had a quart bottle of mercury that a relative had given him.

We used to pour it in a container, usually a cardboard boxtop and play with it.

It was (and still is) fascinating to watch it roll and swirl.

We'd even take coins and rub them with the mercury to "shine" them. Dimes seemed to work best and then pennies. I'm sure we then put the coins in our pockets and eventually spent them.

We knew that if ingested, it would kill you, so we avoided doing that.

Of course, the thermometers, medical and otherwise, many thermostat switches and silent light switches used mercury back then.

Dennis
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Old 11-11-2004, 09:35 PM   #12
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The solid phase of hydrogen hydroxide is very dangerous to Airstreams. Especially when deposited on a traction surface. It is so efficient at reducing friction that, well you can guess the rest. :-)
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Old 11-11-2004, 10:11 PM   #13
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And don't ever let hydric acid anywhere near an airstream!
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