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What is Mercury Poisoning?

In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter may be said to suffer from mercury poisoning.
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  • Written By: Jane Harmon
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 18 March 2014
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Mercury poisoning is the common phrase for mercuralism, a condition caused by the body absorbing mercury, either in its elemental form or in a compound. Mercury is a heavy metal, liquid at room temperature, and is easily absorbed through the skin. It is a neuro-toxin that can severely damage the human nervous system and brain.

Mercury poisoning was commonly seen in hat-makers in the 18th century, since a mercury compound was widely used in making felt. Unaware of the danger of skin absorption of mercury, hatters handled the felt, and over a period of time, went insane from mercury poisoning. This gave rise to the phrase "mad as a hatter," which in turn led to Alice in Wonderland's Mad Hatter character. Mercury poisoning is less prevalent than it was in those bad old days, but can still be a concern. The most common source of high levels of mercury today is consumption of mercury-contaminated fish.

Mercury in the ecosystem is almost impossible to remove, and once a fish habitat has become contaminated, the fish that live there absorb it. Most fish don't live long enough to develop a significant load of mercury, and hence aren't dangerous to consume. Long-lived predator fish such as sharks, however, not only absorb mercury from their environment; they also acquire the mercury burden of all the fish they consume. Therefore, shark and other predator fish might pose a risk of mercury poisoning if consumed.

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That said, the level in even an older shark isn't significant enough to harm an adult. The risk is greater for children, or for pregnant women who might pass the mercury poisoning on to their unborn child. It is recommended that pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant refrain from eating certain types of fish known to have higher than normal concentrations of mercury.

The human body can not, unaided, process and remove mercury from the brain and nervous system. Therefore, in cases of mercury poisoning, radical therapies are required to eliminate the contaminant. Chelation therapy is the therapy currently used, in which chelating agents are introduced. Chelating agents can form bonds with the poisonous heavy metals, and then the compound created can be eliminated.

A recent controversy involving mercury poisoning is the claim by parents of children with autism that their child's condition was caused by childhood immunization shots containing a preservative that included a mercury compound. The Centers for Disease Control have denied that a link exists, but circumstantially, autistic symptoms often appear shortly after a child's one- or two-year immunizations, and the condition is much rarer in populations that do not give childhood shots. Drug companies are no longer preserving their drugs using the mercury-containing compound, but it couldn't hurt to ask before your child's regularly scheduled shots.

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Discuss this Article

anon321806
Post 4

The "controversy" over vaccinations was found to be the work of a single doctor, who had deliberately faked his results, and lied to the press.

There is no controversy. The "better not, just in case" argument can cause significant harm and shortening of one's lifespan.

Choosing not to vaccinate is just as much a decision as choosing to. I'd just as soon take the "risk" that a lying, struck-off doctor might have a point, over the very real and documented risk of dying of measles.

Children used to die all the time from childhood diseases. Or were disabled, or had their health ruined, for their whole lives, by childhood diseases that are now almost unheard of, thanks to vaccines. It used to be normal for many children to die young and suffer. The fact that this is shocking to us now, is entirely thanks to vaccines.

You don't just owe it to yourself and your children to get vaccinated. You owe it to society to keep these diseases beaten down.

Vaccination is not an issue you can dither about, or say, "I don't really know either way, so I guess I'll just do nothing" about. Childhood diseases are dangerous! Kids in third world countries die in the thousands, and it's because they don't have the vaccines that we do.

anon175469
Post 3

Thimerosal, which contains mercury, is used in flu shots, which are "recommended" for everyone six months and older, and even for pregnant women! And it's not only the mercury by itself that is harmful, but the aluminum and other ingredients in vaccines. There is no doubt a synergistic effect.

You say, "it couldn't hurt to ask before your child's regularly schedule shots." If you ask a doctor about vaccines, he'll say the benefits outweigh the risks, which is what doctors are taught. Everyone needs to do their own research and not blindly accept what they are told.

My brother, who was a dentist, committed suicide 20 years ago. He had some personal problems, but the fact that as a dentist, he was exposed to mercury in his dental practice, probably contributed to his suicide. Dentists are known to have the highest rate of suicide among any profession. Suicidal thoughts, I understand, are one of the effects of mercury exposure.

anon102372
Post 2

Less prevalent than it was?

Sorry to say but those 'bad old days' are still going strong what with the toxic vaccine additive Thimerosal (ethyl mercury compound) used in infants and ongoing environmental pollution.

The thing about bioaccumulative neurotoxins is they do exactly what it says on the tin.

But the greatest source of all is thanks to the bloody-minded denial of conventional dentistry who use mercury with carefree abandon (in their unwitting patients) because apparently amalgam fillings are perfectly safe, people.

Interesting, because according to the World Health Organisation report in 1991, dental amalgam represents the greatest human exposure to mercury - more than all other sources combined, including seafood.

anon52220
Post 1

it's very good to learn. i want to thank you for it.

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