So You Think You've Been Poisoned by Mercury...

Image result for mercury poisoning imagesPeople who have been exposed to high concentrations of mercury, especially pregnant women and young children, are at risk of mercury poisoning which can lead to serious health complications and even death. Symptoms may arise immediately or over a long period of time depending on the dose and the duration of exposure. In most cases, symptoms take weeks, months, or even a year to surface. Mercury takes on three different forms; inorganic or organic mercury, and elemental (vaporized) mercury. Each form's toxicity symptoms slightly vary. Inorganic mercury poisoning can lead to skin irritations and blood diarrhea if ingested in large amounts. Organic mercury toxicity can lead to symptoms including muscle weakness, loss of coordination, speech, vision, and hearing impairments. A person who has been poisoned by elemental mercury may experience mood swings, insomnia, tremors, and in very serious cases respiratory failure, kidney complications, and even death. 

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If a person is symptomatic and suspects that they have been poisoned by mercury they should contact their physician or local poison control center immediately. Blood and urine tests can be done to help diagnose mercury poisoning. Any test resulting in concentration of mercury over 10µg/L (micrograms/liter) in blood or 20µg/L in urine can indicate toxic levels of exposure. For best results, the patient should not eat fish five days prior to being tested. Doctors may also order a Complete Blood Count (CBC), an MRI scans, or x-rays to better help diagnose mercury poisoning. The quicker a patient is diagnosed, the faster treatment can be started. Don't wait. The United States National Poison Control Center can be reached at 1-800-222-1222 or visit their website at You can also find your local poison control center by visiting


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