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Is Mercury Dangerous?

Diana Bocco
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Mercury, also known as quicksilver, is one of only four metals that stay liquid at room temperature. Used for centuries in the medical industry, it has now become known as an environmental hazard and raised concerns about its use in industrial settings. It is one of the most dangerous metals known.

Together with lead, mercury causes thousands of poisonings a year, almost all of which come from broken thermometers and simple household items, such as broken fluorescent light bulbs and certain latex paints. This metal is also found in electrical switches, certain art supplies, blood pressure cuffs, and dental amalgams. Many fungicides and pesticides also contain mercury. There are several drugs and common vaccines that contain small amounts as an essential ingredient. The United States Food and Drug Administration website has a full list of items that contain this metal.

When it enters the body, mercury affects the central nervous system, injuring the kidneys, and producing severe brain damage. The vapors cause serious respiratory system disorders, including pneumonitis. Much of the damage caused by this metal is irreversible.

Mercury is released into the environment by several processes, including burning coal and hazardous waste disposal. If the metal gets into the water supply, it causes a double problem, since it eventually builds up in fish that are eventually consumed by people. As a result, many types of fish now contain levels of mercury dangerous enough to be considered a serious hazard. In fact, methylmercury is now one of the main causes of mercury poisoning in humans. The environmental presence of this metal also has an effect on birds, which have been known to suffer retarded development and even death due to mercury exposure. Predators that feed primarily on fish or birds are also at risk as a consequence.

Pregnant women exposed to mercury have a higher risk of having a baby with birth defects and development problems. Because this metal can cause serious damage to the brain, it has been linked to ADD and other common learning and behavioral problems.

In addition, part of the danger of this metal is that it's still being used in many items that are part of daily life. By reducing mercury's presence, it may be possible to also reduce its effects.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diana Bocco
By Diana Bocco , Former Writer
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various businesses. With a data-focused approach and a talent for sharing engaging stories, Diana’s written work gets noticed and drives results.

Discussion Comments

By anon980876 — On Dec 08, 2014

I had mercury fillings and I was sick for many years. It reduces digestion, hormones, transmitters and other nutrients for detox. I know I will have to do detox for life even after the fillings are removed. I would have done it earlier, but they were under the crowns so nobody guessed, even biological dentists.

By anon356149 — On Nov 22, 2013

Well, sodium is more dangerous than any element.

By anon152054 — On Feb 12, 2011

to comment two: is there any way to remove all of the mercury in her mouth?

By anon128735 — On Nov 20, 2010

exRAF: You didn't have it in your body.

By anon102354 — On Aug 07, 2010

I served an apprenticeship as an Instrument Maker in the Royal Air Force when I was 16. We handled mercury regularly as it was present in barometers and thermometers, switches etc. I remember playing with a spoonful of mercury and I recall that when placed on aluminum it grew a forest of powdery spikes.

I am now 87 but according to all the reports of the dangers of this material, I should have been dead years ago. --exRAF

By anon88020 — On Jun 02, 2010

I believe sincerely that my wife, born in 1949, has been affected by mercury, showing the first signs of Alzheimer's at age 54 after dental work and removal of a cracked tooth in her mouth full of amalgam fillings in 2004.

She was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia in 2005,but i refuse to believe it is so. I have avoided giving her so-called helpful medication that only makes a zombie out of the person, and it seems she is not deteriorating at a great rate and is still very active and logical at times.

Finding someone to take an interest in her condition (other than Alzheimer's) has proved to be frustrating over the last five years.

By breakofday — On Mar 06, 2010

Mercury poisoning is probably where the term "as mad as a hatter" comes from! Hat makers used mercury on the felt and other fabrics when they worked. The nervous system is affected so hatters would have trembling and violent mood swings, generally acting crazy or "mad".

Alice in Wonderland has a Mad Hatter, but doesn't say anything about why he is mad, I guess it wouldn't be quite as intriguing if it was.

Diana Bocco

Diana Bocco

Former Writer

Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various...
Learn more
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