Mercury poisoning can be rapid or slow and depends heavily on the amount of mercury exposed to. Mercury in any form is poisonous. The encounter with mercury can have different forms such as inhalation, ingestion, injection, and absorption through the skin.
Methylmercury is an organic compound of mercury; it’s most commonly found in fish. Mercury pollution in water results in aquatic organisms converting elemental mercury into methylmercury. The way it’s consumed by fish allows it to be tightly bound within the fish that almost all cooking methods cannot remove it.
The most deadly form is methylmercury. A small percentage, 2-10%, of the ingested mercury is absorbed while elemental mercury is not absorbed at all. The gastrointestinal tract absorbs 90% of ingested methylmercury into the bloodstream.
Symptoms of mercury poisoning can be categorized into three types depending on the form of mercury encountered:
1) Elemental or vaporized mercury:
High exposures to elemental mercury can cause kidney malfunction, respiratory failure, and death. Other symptoms include headaches, muscle twitching, and decreased cognitive functions.
2) Organic mercury:
Organic mercury toxicity can causes neurological malfunctions, and especially in a fetus, impaired neurological development. Pregnant women who have had methylmercury toxicity effects were apparent on their children. Developmental impairments like reduced thinking ability, memory and attention span, as well as effects on motor skills of various degrees.
3) Inorganic mercury:
This may cause skin rashes and inflammation, tissues dissolve, and bloody diarrhea. If mercury spreads to other organs mental changes may occur, such as mood swings or memory loss. Renal damage or muscle weakness may also result.