Mercury poisoning is the result of exposure to mercury, a heavy metal that’s seriously toxic to our health. Numerous studies have shown that high exposure to mercury changes and poisons the central nervous system, which can result in irritability, fatigue, behavioral changes, tremors, headaches, hearing and cognitive loss, hallucinations and even death. Mercury exposure can also negatively affect the cardiovascular system, causing high blood pressure in humans and animals.
Ideally, we would all have zero mercury internally present in our bodies. However, due to our diets, environmental exposure, choice of fillings and more, almost every single person in the world has at least trace amounts of mercury in his or her body.
Mercury poisoning is typically not a health problem that occurs overnight. It takes time for mercury levels to build up in the blood. Naturally, mercury slowly leaves the body through urine, feces and breast milk. However, if you consume a great deal of fish high in mercury, it can actually take up to a year for your mercury levels to go down after you stop eating the mercury-rich fish.
This may sound like a ridiculous amount of time, but you have to consider that when you eat seafood containing methylmercury, over 95 percent of the mercury can be absorbed into your bloodstream. It can then travel throughout your body and penetrate the cells of various tissues and organs where it can remain stored up for years, which can cause symptoms that you may or may not realize are the result of mercury poisoning.
While there is no way to entirely avoid mercury as long as you live on planet Earth, there are many ways to naturally reduce your exposure and intake. Mercury serves zero purpose in our bodies, which means we ideally want to reduce our mercury exposure as much as possible. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the most common way we’re exposed to mercury in the U.S. is by consuming fish containing this health-hazardous heavy metal.
I’m going to tell you about some natural ways to reduce your exposure and also how to reduce the mercury that has already accumulated in your body, along with how to tell if you may have mercury poisoning.
Mercury Poisoning Symptoms and Who Is Most Affected
What is mercury? Mercury (Hg) is a heavy metal that can be found in the Earth’s crust. It’s released into the environment with natural phenomenons like volcanic eruptions. Mercury commonly occurs in three forms: elemental, inorganic and organic. In nature, mercury is mainly found within compounds and as inorganic salts. It’s rarely found as a liquid metal in nature.
Human activities, like coal burning and gold mining, are currently the main sources of mercury being released into our environment. Metallic or elemental mercury (an odorless, shiny, silver-white liquid) is commonly used in thermometers, barometers and fluorescent light bulbs. Due to valid concerns over mercury’s toxicity, mercury thermometers have been phased out of most hospitals and other clinical facilities. Mercury poisoning can occur as a result of being exposed to water-soluble forms of mercury (like methylmercury), inhaling mercury vapors, or by ingesting any form of mercury.
When it comes to mercury levels in our bodies, a normal whole blood mercury level is considered to be between zero and nine nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). People who have regular, mild exposure to mercury due to their occupations, like dentists, may regularly have whole blood mercury levels up to 15 ng/mL.
Elemental mercury is found in dental fillings as well as glass thermometers, fluorescent light bulbs and electrical switches. Chronic symptoms of elemental mercury exposure may include:
Metallic taste in the mouth
•Swollen, bleeding gums
Permanent lung damage and death may occur depending on how much mercury has been inhaled. Long-term brain damage is also possible.
Organic mercury, or methylmercury, is found in fish along with fumes from burning coal. Long-term, accumulated exposure to this type of mercury will likely cause symptoms in the nervous system, including:
Numbness or pain in certain parts of your skin
Uncontrollable shaking or tremor
Inability to walk well
Blindness and double vision
Seizures and death (with large exposures)
When it comes to high levels of mercury, pregnant women really have to be the most careful. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, pregnant women who consume high-mercury fish regularly risk permanently damaging their developing fetuses. And we’re not talking about minor damage either. Children born to these mothers have been known to exhibit cognitive deficits, motor difficulties and sensory problems. The mercury warning for moms-to-be is definitely real and really worth listening to for the sake of your unborn baby.