What is Mercury Poisoning? How is Mercury Affecting You

What is Mercury Poisoning? How is Mercury Affecting You

by Sanjay B

Summary:  How is mercury poisoning affecting you? Are you aware of how you can get mercury poisoning and how it can affect you or your children – even the unborn? We discuss here the major causes of mercury poisoning, its effects, sources, treatment and what you can do to prevent it.What is mercury poisoning and how is it affecting you? Are you aware of its dangers – or of its treatment and prognosis? How do you get mercury poisoning? Here are the answers to some of these questions. Mercury is an attractive looking element in its pure state – bright, silvery and the only liquid metal at room temperature. Beautiful – but deadly! Here are some of the dangers that mercury presents to your health.

What is Mercury Poisoning?

Mercury affects your kidneys, brain and central nervous system. How significant these effects are depends on how much mercury you are exposed to, whether it is liquid or vapor, and who is affected – it affects different people in different ways. Mercury can damage your brain, lungs kidney and inhibits myelin formation.

Myelin is the sheath that protects your nerve cells (neurons), and is essential for a healthy nervous system. Mercury poisoning can retard myelin development in growing fetuses and effectively prevent the development of a healthy brain and nervous system. A similar situation exists with your children up to adolescence.

Mercury reacts with selenium, an antioxidant mineral that helps prevent damage to the brain and endocrine (glandular) cells through oxidation by free radicals and other oxidizing agents. The brain uses large amounts of oxygen, and is itself therefore subject to significant degrees of oxidative damage.

Selenoenzymes not only prevent this, but also help to regenerate the antioxidant vitamins C and E after they have expended their reducing effect on dangerous oxygenated species. By preventing this, mercury poisoning can severely affect your health and also be fatal. Mercury has similar effects on the function of the liver and kidneys, and retards their ability to remove toxins from your body.

How Do You Get Mercury Poisoning: Sources of Mecury

Contrary to popular belief, breaking thermometers does not contribute much to mercury poisoning. The major sources of mercury are more dangerous though you can take steps to avoid them. One such source is fish – particularly shellfish and fish or mammals that eat other fish such as tuna, swordfish and dolphins.

If you weigh 140 pounds and eat 8 ounces of cod a week, then you will ingest only 49% of the safe level of mercury. However, if you eat 8 ounces of bigeye tuna, you will ingest 325% – even ordinary canned tuna will be 186% for an 8 ounce can. So keep an eye on your fish:  ocean fish contain significantly more mercury than average river fish such as trout which is 37% for 8 oz – all figures for a 10 stone person.

Other sources are coal plants, which emit about 50% of atmospheric mercury, volcanoes and many industrial processes. Fluorescent lamps are another source, and the increasing usage of ‘low energy’ light bulbs is adding to the problem. If such lamps should break, make sure they are cleaned up immediately. ‘Button’ batteries and mercury thermometers are also minor sources of mercury.

Ultimately, governments will have to control the disposal of all of these to landfill, or this may be another source of mercury poisoning – particularly if landfill mercury gets into the water table. Another mercury source that is starting to be controlled is mercury amalgam.

Amalgam is the name given to an alloy of mercury commonly use for dental cavity fillings. Many people claim to have been affected by the leaching of mercury from their fillings.  In the USA, UK, Sweden and Austria such fillings are no longer carried out because of this problem.

How is Mercury Affecting You Personally?

The symptoms of mercury poisoning are varied according to the effect it has on your brain or other vital organs. Common mercury poisoning symptoms are impaired speech, vision and hearing. You may also suffer a lack of coordination and chronic fatigue. One woman was unable to carry out housework until she had all her amalgam fillings replaced with safer alternatives. Since then she has had no problems.

Fatigue is one of the initial symptoms of mercury poisoning: if you always feel tired and have reason to believe that this might be due to mercury, then check out the potential sources. As explained previously, this may be your diet if you eat a lot of fish, particularly sushi (tuna, swordfish, whale or dolphin meat).  Other symptoms include impaired vision, mood swings, memory loss, numbness and pins and needles.

Mercury Poisoning Treatment

If caught soon enough, all symptoms are reversible, irrespective of how you get mercury poisoning. If not, then all those mentioned above can occur – including ultimate death. If pregnant women suffer poisoning with mercury, then their fetus may be born with severe effects to the brain and central nervous system.

The first step is to get urgent medical attention! There is little you can do yourself. So how is mercury affecting you right now?  You do not know!  All you can do is try to avoid the sources.  It is not easy to find the statistics for mercury poisoning, but according to a 2001 National Academy of Sciences study, there were an estimated 60,000 children born each year in the USA who may have been affected by mercury poisoning. Food for thought!


1.  Reeves, M.A.; Hoffman, P.R. (2009). “The human selenoproteome: recent insights into functions and regulation.”. Cell Mol Life Sci. 66 (15): 2457–2478.

2.  Linster, C.L.; Van Schaftingen, E. (2007). “Vitamin C: Biosynthesis, recycling and degradation in mammals.”. FEBS Journal 274: 1–22.

3.  Eric Johnstone, Staff Writer “Mercury Danger in Dolphin Meat”, The Japan Times Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009

4.  Aucott M, McLinden M, Winka M (2003). “Release of mercury from broken fluorescent bulbs“. J Air Waste Manag Assoc 53 (2): 143–51

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