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Friday, May 30, 2014

Fact-Checking Mercury - Post #1


We've all heard a lot about mercury 
over the past few decades. From its 
accumulation in seafood to air pollution
to vaccines...mercury is an oft-talked about 
subject. But, what do we really know?

This is the 1st of 4 segments which we will
offer, once a week, in hopes of bringing 
you and those you care about, some useful intel
on the subject. And please, if you have something 
to add, offer a comment. Let us all learn together.

So...what is mercury, anyway?

Mercury is a naturally occurring metal element with interesting properties. In its pure form, it is a magical-looking liquid metal, also called quicksilver. It can also react with various other elements to form stable compounds. These compounds are grouped into 3 classifications: elemental mercury, inorganic mercury compounds (primarily mercuric chloride), and organic mercury compounds (primarily methyl mercury).
Source: Environmental Protection Agency http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/hlthef/mercury.html

What are the symptoms of mercury poisoning?

All forms of mercury are quite toxic, and each form exhibits different health effects.

Acute (short-term) exposure to high levels of elemental mercury in humans results in central nervous system (CNS) effects such as tremors, mood changes, and slowed sensory and motor nerve function.  Chronic (long-term) exposure to elemental mercury in humans also affects the CNS, with effects such as erethism (increased excitability), irritability, excessive shyness, and tremors.  Human studies are inconclusive regarding elemental mercury and cancer.

Acute exposure to inorganic mercury by the oral route may result in effects such as nausea, vomiting, and severe abdominal pain.  The major effect from chronic exposure to inorganic mercury is kidney damage. Animal studies have reported effects such as alterations in testicular tissue, increased resorption rates, and abnormalities of development. Mercuric chloride (an inorganic mercury compound) exposure has been shown to result in forestomach, thyroid, and renal tumors in experimental animals.

Acute exposure of humans to very high levels of methyl mercury results in CNS effects such as blindness, deafness, and impaired level of consciousness. Chronic exposure to methyl mercury in humans also affects the CNS with symptoms such as paresthesia (a sensation of pricking on the skin), blurred vision, malaise, speech difficulties, and constriction of the visual field. 

Methyl mercury exposure, via the oral route, has led to significant developmental effects. Infants born to women who ingested high levels of methyl mercury exhibited mental retardation, ataxia, constriction of the visual field, blindness, and cerebral palsy. “
Source: Environmental Protection Agency http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/hlthef/mercury.html

So...now that we have a small sense of what mercury is, or can be, 
and the kinds of damage it can inflict on living creatures...tune in 
next week for our post about common sources of mercury and an 
answer to the question: "What is Thimerosal?"

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Welcome to the conversation. Knowledge changes. People respond best when this truism is kept in mind. In community, March & Karen