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Am I at risk of exposure to mercury? The five early warning signs of Mercury poisoning

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Manish Saini
Manish works as a Journalist and writer at Revyuh.com. He has studied Political Science and graduated from Delhi University. He is a Political engineer, fascinated by politics, and traditional businesses. He is also attached to many NGO's in the country and helping poor children to get the basic education. Email: Manish (at) revyuh (dot) com

Mercury, being a heavy metal, is highly toxic to humans. Its too much exposure may result in Mercury poisoning that can have dangerous effects on our immune and nervous system and it can be fatal for lungs and kidneys.

“Neurological and behavioural disorders may be observed after inhalation, ingestion or dermal exposure of different mercury compounds,” warns the WHO.

Early signs include:

  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Memory loss
  • Neuromuscular effects
  • Headaches and cognitive and motor dysfunction.

Am I at risk of exposure to mercury?

Exposure to mercury poisoning depends on a number of factors. It may be severe, subtle for some, and for some people it may not occur at all.

According to the United States Environmental Protection (EPA), these include:

  • The form of mercury (for example, methylmercury or elemental (metallic) mercury)
  • The amount of mercury in the exposure
  • The age of the person exposed (unborn infants are the most vulnerable);
  • How long the exposure lasts
  • How the person is exposed – breathing, eating, skin contact, etc.
  • The health of the person exposed.

According to Harvard Health, pregnant women and young children are advised not to eat certain fish and to limit overall fish consumption to two servings per week.

“Fish, especially the larger predator fish, concentrate the mercury in their bodies as they consume smaller creatures,” warns Harvard Health.

According to the agency, the highest levels are seen in swordfish, king mackerel, shark, and albacore (white) tuna.

“A good strategy for adult men is to limit consumption of fish highest in mercury to once per week, and feel free to eat other fish on a regular basis,” it advises.

How to treat mercury poisoning

The best treatment, as advised by the Winchester Hospital, is to block the exposure of the mercury.

According to the Winchester Hospital, chelation therapy is a common first-line treatment for mercury exposure.

Chelation therapy involves putting a chemical known as a chelating agent into the bloodstream that combines with mercury to help remove it from the body.

It is also important to minimize the risk of mercury poisoning where possible.

First and foremost, it is advised to avoid using metallic mercury for any purpose, advises the Winchester Hospital.

“If you must use metallic mercury, keep it safely stored in a leak-proof container in a secure space, such as a locking closet,” advises the health body.

Another key preventative measure is to trade in old thermometers or barometers containing mercury for new ones that do not, it adds.

Other key tips include:

  • Carefully handle and dispose of items containing mercury, such as thermometers and fluorescent light bulbs
  • Do not vacuum or heat spilled mercury
  • Teach children not to play with silver liquids
  • Properly dispose of old medications that contain mercury
  • Keep mercury-containing medications away from children
  • Learn about wildlife and fish advisories in your area from your local public health or natural resources department
  • Limit fish intake to recommended quantities and avoid fish known to be contaminated by mercury.

“Coal contains mercury and other hazardous air pollutants that are emitted when the coal is burned in coal-fired power plants, industrial boilers and household stoves,” explains the WHO.

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