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Symptoms of Mercury Poisoning

 

  • Impairment of the peripheral vision
  • Disturbances in sensations ("pins and needles" feelings, numbness) usually in the hands feet and sometimes around the mouth
  • Lack of coordination of movements, such as writing
  • Impairment of speech, hearing, walking;
  • Muscle weakness
  • Skin rashes
  • Mood swings
  • Memory loss
  • Mental disturbance

 

Mercury Exposure

Health problems caused by mercury depend on how much has entered your body, how it entered your body, how long you have been exposed to it, and how your body responds to the mercury. People are at risk when they consume mercury-contaminated fish and when they are exposed to spilled mercury.

Elemental (metallic) mercury and its compounds are toxic and exposure to excessive levels can permanently damage or fatally injure the brain and kidneys. Elemental mercury can also be absorbed through the skin and cause allergic reactions. Ingestion of inorganic mercury compounds can cause severe renal and gastrointestinal toxicity. Organic compounds of mercury such as methylmercury are considered the most toxic forms of the element. Exposures to very small amounts of these compounds can result in devastating neurological damage and death.

For fetuses, infants and children, the primary health effects of mercury are on neurological development. Even low levels of mercury exposure such as result from mother's consumption of methylmercury in dietary sources can adversely affect the brain and nervous system. Impacts on memory, attention, language and other skills have been found in children exposed to moderate levels in the womb.

 

Mercury Spills

All mercury spills, regardless of quantity, should be treated seriously. Metallic mercury slowly evaporates when exposed to the air. The air in a room can reach contamination levels just from the mercury in a broken thermometer. Mercury in school labs should be handled with care and stored safely and securely.

 

Mercury Pollution

 

Prognosis of mercury poisoning in mercury refinery workers.

The prognosis of chronic metallic mercury poisoning in two groups of patients from the mercury refinery of a mercury mine was evaluated by reexamination which included an interview, physical and neurological examination and determination of urinary mercury.

Group I consisted of 70 male patients, who had been exposed to metallic mercury for 1.6-17.8 years, 15 of whom had been diagnosed 10 years earlier as having severe chronic metallic mercury poisoning, and the rest moderate chronic metallic mercury poisoning. At the time of reexamination, they had been removed from mercury exposure for 2 months-17 years. None of them had been treated with any chelating agent.

Group 2 comprised 84 male patients from the same mercury mine, who had been exposed to metallic mercury for 2-10 years after 1962 and had been previously diagnosed as having mild chronic metallic mercury poisoning. They were reexamined after 2 months of hospital admission and chelation treatment with unithiol or sodium dimercaptosuccinate (Na-DMS). Based on clinical evaluation, the condition of the patients in both groups had all improved, even in the severe cases.

The overall prognosis of chronic metallic mercury poisoning in mercury refinery workers was encouraging after termination of mercury exposure. Chelation therapy with unithiol or Na-DMS was evidently beneficial for reducing urine mercury and some symptoms, but not for neurological and stomal signs.

Sources:

  • PMID: 6497343 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
  • Ann Acad Med Singapore. 1984 Apr;13(2 Suppl):389-93. As well as He FS, Zhow XR, Lin BX, Xiung YP, Chen SY, Zhang SL, Ru JY and Deng MH.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency
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