What is mercury poison?

Actor Jeremy Piven recently bowed out of the Broadway play Speed the Plow citing high levels of mercury in his blood. The cause of his uncharacteristically high mercury blood levels, poisoning, is unclear. Mr. Piven has in the past taken Chinese herbs and likes sushi.  There is metal mercury, mercury salts and organic mercury.

Question: Is mercury poisonous?

Answer: Yes and is especially poisonous to infants and children.

“Children playing with mercury can be seriously poisoned if they breathe the invisible mercury vapors. Children are most sensitive to mercury poisoning during early development to age six. Mercury exposure in children can cause a severe form of poisoning termed acrodynia. Acrodynia is evidenced by pain in the extremities, pinkness and peeling of the hands, feet and nose, irritability, sweating, rapid heart beat and loss of mobility.

Mercury can also affect the unborn fetus. Some organic mercury compounds (methylmercury) are known to interfere with fetal development, cuasing birth defects in children born of exposed mothers. It is not known whether inorganic compounds (mercury two) or elemental mercury (mercury zero) have this effect. The effects on infants born to mothers with mild exposure to methylmercury are mainly neurological, including delayed developmental milestones (first step, first word, etc.), altered muscle tone and tendon reflexes, and depressed intelligence.

For these reasons, pregnant women and small children should be specially aware of fish advisories in their area. The World Health Organization (WHO) has adopted the range of 10 ppm to 20 ppm mercury in hair as the threshold for the harmful effects of methylmercury. “

Question: What are the common sources of mercury in the home?

Answer: Thermometers, fish, some mercuric salts and some herbal supplements.

Question: What are the symptoms?

Answer: Symptoms depend on how mercury entered the body. Inhalation affects the lungs. Ingestion by eating and it’s in the blood or tissues.  It’s not an easy diagnosis so doctors have to know more about where you’ve probably been exposed.

“If it's mercuric salts the person has been poisoned by, it may just be a problem with the kidneys, issues with the ability to urinate, or they're feeling out of whack because of renal dysfunction.

If someone is inhaling fumes from elemental mercury, that can show up as an upper respiratory illness, like a flu, at first. They might find they can't concentrate well, have trouble with fine motor control or their perception of smell, eyes or touch. If it was affecting their heart, it could be palpitations or just in general not feeling well. If something is not going well with their blood cells forming, they may have issues similar to anemia, feeling very tired, easy bleeding or bruising.

With organic mercury exposure, the symptoms are pretty much the same, but probably not respiratory. The nervous system effects are what someone would see first.”

Mercuric salts are considered to be a poison.

“Symptoms: Burning pain in throat and stomach, throat spasm, retrosternal pain; nausea, bilious vomiting; pale face, cold and clammy skin; weak and irregular pulse, shallow and rapid breathing.

Treatment: Empty stomach (not by tube); give white of eggs, castor oil, demulcent drinks, large draughts of water to flush the kidneys; morphine and atropine hypodermically; caffeine, strychnine, camphor. “

Know what you are taking, especially pregnant mothers. Know your environment and protect your children.

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