Mercury Poisoning (cont.)
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Mercury Poisoning Symptoms
Symptoms of mercury poisoning can be numerous and may occur either rapidly or over long periods of time. In general, symptoms occur and progress more rapidly the higher the dose of mercury encountered. Exposure to the various forms of mercury can result in some similar and some different symptoms. Symptoms can be grouped into three categories based on the form of mercury toxicity; 1) elemental and vaporized mercury, 2) organic mercury, and 3) inorganic mercury.
Elemental and Vaporized Mercury Poisoning Symptoms
Elemental mercury toxicity (which usually occurs in the vaporized form) can cause:
High exposures of elemental mercury can cause kidney malfunction, respiratory failure, and death.
Organic Mercury Poisoning Symptoms
Organic mercury toxicity (most frequently in the methylmercury form from ingestion), causes neurological malfunctions, and especially in a fetus, impaired neurological development. Other symptoms include:
Since many pregnant women have had methylmercury toxicity, the effects of this toxicity on their children was studied. Importantly, the fetal brain was shown to be very sensitive to methylmercury; developmental impairments such as reduced ability in thinking, attention span, memory, and most motor skills occurred in various degrees, often severe, even if the mother developed few if any symptoms.
Inorganic Mercury Poisoning Symptoms
Inorganic mercury toxicity often causes skin rashes and inflammation (dermatitis). If ingested, it can dissolve tissues and some may be absorbed by the intestinal tissue. Large amounts of ingested inorganic mercury may cause bloody diarrhea. Absorbed mercury can spread to other organ systems resulting in mental changes including mood swings and memory loss or renal damage. Muscle weakness may also occur.
Other Mercury Poisoning Symptoms
Many other symptoms and health problems have been attributed to mercury poisoning (for example, high blood pressure, endometriosis, headaches) in anecdotal reports in the popular press and in a few case reports in scientific publications. Currently, there are no good studies to support these claims; however, if people have concerns about their symptoms and health problems related to mercury exposure, they should discuss their concerns with their doctor.
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