Mercury Poisoning Or How to Wear Out Your
Mercury is the only common metal that is a liquid at
It is produced from the ore Cinnabar, the world's supply
coming mostly from Spain and Italy. It is a heavy silvery-white
The uses are many including your thermometer, barometers,
mercury switches and other electronic apparatus. It is also
used in pesticides, dental preparations, paint, batteries and
The most important thing to know about mercury is that it is
poison. It is a cumulative poison that is absorbed easily
through the respiratory tract, the gastrointestinal tract, or
through broken skin.
Broken thermometers are the cause of
numerous calls to the Poison Center. Thermometers with a silver
line contain elemental mercury. Thermometers with a red or blue
liquid do not contain mercury. Elemental mercury is also known
as liquid silver and quicksilver. The most common sources of
exposure to elemental mercury in the home are due to
- Broken mercury thermometers
- broken fluorescent light bulbs
- dental amalgam fillings
- mercury containing latex paints
Of all the forms of mercury, elemental mercury is the most
commonly swallowed form of mercury usually from a broken
thermometer. Fortunately, mercury from a thermometer is not
absorbed from the stomach and will not cause any poisoning in a
In a healthy person the slippery swallowed mercury will roll
into the stomach out in to the bowels and will be quickly
eliminated without causing any symptoms. A person with severe
inflammatory bowel disease may have problems with mercury if it
is not all cleared out, resulting in prolonged exposure.
Mercury is not well absorbed across the skin so skin contact
is not likely to cause poisoning from a brief one time
exposure. Wash the area well to remove any mercury.
Inhalation of elemental mercury vapors is the main cause of
toxicity. To develop toxicity you need a large one time
exposure or a long term exposure. A large one time inhalation
exposure of mercury vapor may cause these symptoms:
- metallic taste,
- mouth sores,
- swollen gums,
- abdominal pain,
- shortness of breath,
- chest tightness,
- pneumonia and
- kidney damage.
Long term exposure is more dangerous than one time short
exposure. Symptoms usually develop over a period of years.
Neurological symptoms may include:
- short-term memory loss,
- loss of appetite,
- altered sense of taste and smell,
- numbness and tingling in the hands and feet,
- insomnia, and
- excessive sweating.
Psychiatric effects are also seen after long term
Acrodynia can result from repeated exposures to
mercury-containing latex paint fumes. Acrodynia is usually seen
in younger children. The symptoms may include:
- body rash,
- leg cramps,
- swelling of the cheeks, nose, hands and feet,
- light-sensitivity to the eyes and
- peeling skin layers on the palms of the hands and soles
of the feet.
In the general population the main source of mercury
poisoning is the ingestion of mercury-contaminated food,
usually fish. When waters are contaminated the flesh of fish
can contain 1000 times greater amount of mercury than the
Methyl-mercury, usually from contaminated food, is very
dangerous to pregnant women. It causes profound mental
retardation, cerebral palsy, seizures, spasticity, tremors and
uncoordination along with eye and hearing damage in the unborn
baby. Organic mercury passes into breast milk as well. The
Minamata outbreak in Japan was disastrous.
Mercury poisoning from dental amalgam fillings is a reality
that is still being debated by governments. Because of its
nature mercury is the "perfect" ingredient in fillings either
gold or silver.
However, the reaction to antibiotics is a breakdown of the
mercury which releases vapor. The simple act of chewing food
releases mercury vapor. Vapor enters the body through the lungs
and the mucous membranes and spreads throughout the entire body
including the brain.
If you have fillings in your teeth, you might want to
re-think the diagnosis you have been given by a doctor for
- Extreme fatigue,
- stiffness and ache in muscles and joints,
- blurred vision,
- double vision,
- impaired coordination of eyes and muscles,
- increased heart palpations without external cause,
- frequent infections of the urinary system,
- frequent sinusitis,
- prone to infections,
- menstrual disturbances,
- anxiety attacks,
- depressions, mood swings and irritability,
- lack of initiative.
- hair loss,
- weight loss,
- partial loss of hearing and smell,
- weak muscles,
- chronic fever/fluctuating temperature,
- increased sensitivity to electromagnetic
There is growing evidence that dental amalgam containing
mercury can be involved as a contributing factor in diseases
such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatic diseases, fibromyalgia,
SLE, psoriasis, ulcer colitis, Morbus Crohn, allergies, heart
conditons, epilepsy and mental problems such as
The concentration of mercury in the brain and the kidneys of
autopsied individuals correlates positively to the number of
Note - in exchanging your dental filling proceed slowly if
your dentist does not have protective specialized appliances.
Allow 6-8 weeks between removals. Don't forget those crowns and
any partials that have wire.
There appears to be many cases of people having to go to an
ER for severe mercury poisoning after having their fillings
changed by a dentist who did not have the proper equipment or
expertise to deal with removal of mercury amalgams. Also,
please consider that many many doctors have had their own
fillings removed even when they pooh-pooh the idea that there
is a connection. They are not taking any chances. Why should
you? Make sure you find a dentist who knows what to do and how
to do it.
I believe many people have gone to a digital thermometer.
However if you have a mercury thermometer and it should break,
here are the guidlines to clean it up.
Never sweep the area with a broom. Sweeping breaks the
mercury into smaller droplets, further contaminating the room
and the broom.
Never vacuum as vacuuming vaporizes the mercury and
increases the concentration of mercury in the air.
Never put mercury down the sink drain. It may stay in the
Never wash mercury contaminated clothes in the washing
machine. Mercury will contaminate the washing machine.
Never walk around if your shoes or socks may be contaminated
with mercury. That will spread the mercury droplets all over
Never use household cleaning products to clean the spill,
particularly products that contain ammonia or chlorine. These
chemicals will react violently with mercury releasing a toxic
If you are wearing gold jewelry, remove it before cleaning
the spill. If the liquid mercury contacts the gold jewelry, the
mercury bonds permanently to the gold and ruins it. Wear gloves
to prevent mercury from lodging under the fingernails while
cleaning. Throw the gloves away after cleaning. Wear clothes
and shoes that can be thrown away after cleaning if they become
Increase ventilation in the room with outside air and close
the room off from the rest of the house. If possible use fans
for at least one hour.
Pick up the mercury with an eye dropper or scoop up beads
with a piece of heavy paper such as playing cards.
Wide sticky tape can be used to pick up any glass particles
and mercury beads. (another use for duct tape)
Disposal of broken thermometer
Place the mercury contaminated instruments (paper, tape) and
any broken glass in a zipper bag. Place this zipper bag in a
second zipper bag and then in a third zipper bad each bag
sealed with tape.
Place the bags in a wide-mouth sealable plastic container.
Bag up all contaminated clothing, bedding, shoes etc. Call your
local health department for the nearest approved mercury
disposal location. This is Hazardous Waste.
If you have decided by now to get rid of your mercury
thermometer, do not throw it in the trash. You must treat it as
hazardous waste even if it is not broken. Think about it. You
throw it in the trash, it gets broken at the dump, the mercury
contaminates the ground or is released as vapor into the air.
Water contaminated, animals contaminated, YOU are contaminated.
All over the world, people are throwing away broken and
unbroken mercury thermometers.
There are specific tests your physician can have done to
determine mercury poisoning. These tests however, will not show
if mercury poisoning has contaminated your brain. Only an
autopsy will show that.
There are treatments available for metal poisoning. However
I have run out of space in this overly long article.
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place. Sharon Owen Editor of Answers For Your