Mercury, also known as quicksilver is a metal in liquid form at room temperature. It is a poisonous substance. It has a chemical symbol Hg, and the atomic number is 80. Mercury sulfide is most common form of mercury compound, used for various purposes.
Mercury is used in manufacturing industrial chemicals, electrical and electronic appliances. It is used in manufacturing of paints and batteries. Its use in thermometer is well known due to its liquid nature and low melting point. Mercury is also used as an amalgam in dental fillings.
Mercury poisoning occurs when there is too much exposure to mercury and its derivatives.Mercury poisoning is an industrial health hazard. Many times mercury poisoning goes unnoticed in the early stage, by the physician and the patient.
Causes Of Mercury Poisoning
- Amalgam dental fillings.
- Industrial exposure to mercury and its vapors. E.g. paint and batteries.
- Accidental poisoning due to breaking of thermometer in the mouth while measuring temperature during fever.
- Eating fish and marine food exposed to mercury in polluted water.
Symptoms Of Mercury Poisoning
- Bleeding gums, corrosion of gums and jaw, ulceration in mouth, loose teeth, dark gums.
- Colicky pain in abdomen, diarrhea.
- Changes in blood pressure, low pulse rate, chest pain.
- Cough, breathing difficulty with minimal exertion, weakness, red sputum, interstitial pnemonitis.
- Tremors in limbs, dizziness, headache.
- Loss of memory especially short term memory, insomnia.
- Suicidal tendency, depression, excessive shyness.
- Speech and hearing impairment
- Stinging and needle like sensation in hands and legs.
Mercury Poisoning Treatment
- Avoid the potential source of mercury poisoning.
- Suspected acute cases of mercury poisoning are treated medically, mostly in a hospital.
- In acute mercury vapor inhalation, emergency respiratory support may be necessary.
- Inactivated charcoal is used in inorganic form of mercury poisoning.
- A laxative will be useful in case of ingestion of elemental mercury poisoning, as in case of broken thermometer. Except in certain condition such as ulcerative colitis or diverticulitis, where aggressive treatment is needed.
- Preventive measures should be taken such as, not to eat shark, king mackerel, tilefish, as they contain high level of mercury.
- Pregnant women should not eat fish as much as possible or eat fish having low level of mercury.