Testing for Mercury Toxicity

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 11:31 AM


We have all heard about the dangers of mercury toxicity and how to avoid toxicity by monitoring the amount of fish that we eat as well as other precautions to avoid mercury toxicity but what happens when it is already too late? What does a person do if they are suffering from symptoms associated with mercury poisoning?

First course of action should be to schedule a doctors appointment for as soon as possible. Mercury levels can be tested through blood and urine and sometimes hair specimens, though hair is not a common test. Blood tests check for the levels of methyl mercury as well as inorganic and metallic levels of mercury.

For the latter two forms of mercury testing, they must be performed within days of suspected exposure due to the fact that the amounts will be cut in half approximately every three days because the mercury moves to organs like the kidneys and brain. Other blood tests such as a complete metabolic panel and a complete blood count are used to assess other organs that could be affected by mercury toxicity. The best test for metallic and inorganic mercury are urine tests. Urine tests are unable to detect methyl mercury though. Hair testing is used to check for previous exposure to methyl mercury but it is fairly complex, hence why it is rarely used. It has been shown that mercury also shows up in nails, breast milk, stool and breath.

It can also be determined whether the mercury exposure has been recent, which is called "acute exposure" or over a long period of time, which is called "chronic exposure". Mercury testing can also be implemented regularly for someone who is exposed at their place of work.

According to Lab Tests Online, symptoms signifying an acute exposure include:

· Burning in the mouth and lungs
· Cough, difficulty breathing, chest tightness
· Difficulty urinating and decreased urine output
· Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal cramping
· Increased heart rate
· Fever or chills
· Dizziness
· Headache

Symptoms signifying a chronic exposure include:

· Problems with hearing, taste and smell
· Blurry vision or sometimes tunnel vision
· Tingling or tremors in the arms or legs
· Difficulty walking
· Irritability
· Memory loss

Low levels of mercury in blood and urine are normal. Elevated levels in blood signify a recent exposure and a 24 hour urine specimen can give an average historical look at exposure to inorganic and metallic mercury.

You may be thinking "what happens after testing, what is the treatment for mercury toxicity"? Well, the first and foremost is to stop the exposure. The second is to discuss treatment with your doctor which may include something called chelation therapy. Chelation therapy is a chemical that is given in pills or by injection which assists the body in getting rid of the mercury toxins.



Be aware please that this information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

http://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/mercury/tab/test/
http://pediatrics.med.nyu.edu/conditions-we-treat/conditions/mercury-toxicity
http://www.holistic-medical.com/english/?page_id=57
"MercuryFoodChain-01" by Bretwood Higman, Ground Truth Trekking. - Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Shizhao using CommonsHelper.(Original text : From www.groundtruthtrekking.org:Source URL: http://www.groundtruthtrekking.org/Graphics/Large/MercuryFoodChain-01.png:Source Page: http://www.groundtruthtrekking.org/Graphics/MercuryFoodChain.html). Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MercuryFoodChain-01.png#mediaviewer/File:MercuryFoodChain-01.png

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