Timeline of human awareness of mercury poisoning


1800 - "mad as a hatter" emerged referring to effects of chronic mercury exposure. The hat industry used mercury metal in manufacturing.

1889 – Charcot associated rapid oscillatory tremors to mercury exposure.

1940- Wilson published his classic textbook of neurology agreeing with Charcot’s statement on tremors. He also described mercury-induced cognitive impairments, such as inattention, excitement, and hallucinosis.

1961- In Japan researchers attributed elevated urinary mercury levels with Minamata disease.
Minamata disease is an example of organic toxicity. Local villagers ate the fish after a factory disposed inorganic mercury into the water. Local people began to exhibit signs of neurologic damage, such as visual loss, extremity numbness, hearing loss, and ataxia. Fetus’s exposed to the methylmercury were the most severely affected. Furthermore, because mercury was also discovered in the breast milk of the mothers, the babies' exposure continued after birth.

2013- The Minamata Convention on Mercury was agreed upon at the fifth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee in Geneva, Switzerland. It is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. The major highlights of the convention included a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing ones, control measures on air emissions, and the international regulation of the informal sector for artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

Today- Mercury continues to exist in many of our daily objects. Including in batteries, thermometers, light bulbs, and barometer manufacturing. Some products used in the agriculture industry contain mercury. Some dental amalgams that contain mercury are still used today. Moreover, some cosmetic products contain mercury, such as skin lightening. 


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