When in the past I have been around toxic substances, especially liquids like solvents and the like, I have interacted with this material in the anthropoligical sense of the taboo. Your interest in masculinity raises the question of toxics of the body, rather than just toxics outside the body. By that I mean public health discourse about both disease-bearing living pathogens and waste products. The way these men spoke so callously about the mercury's beauty reminds me of this recent trend in masculinity, both straight and gay, to celebrate and to cherish men's semen. This I've seen described in visual studies analyses of pornography, the "cumshot" phenomenon, etc. One theory is that this sudden focus on semen has to do with fears of STIs like HIV and resulting anxieties. One starting point for exploring these types of questions would be Julia Kristeva.