Brazilian Natural Medicine

How to Identify Mercury Intoxication

Mercury contamination is quite serious, especially when this heavy metal is found in large concentrations in the body. Mercury can accumulate in the body and affect various organs, especially kidneys, liver, digestive system and nervous system, interfering with the functioning of the body and requiring medical monitoring for life.

Mercury intoxication is silent and can take months or years to manifest through signs such as:

  • Weakness, frequent tiredness;
  • Loss of appetite and consequent weight loss;
  • Ulcers in the stomach or duodenum;
  • Changes in the functioning of the kidneys;
  • Weak and brittle teeth, with a tendency to fall out;
  • Irritation and swelling of the skin when there is direct contact with mercury.

When large amounts of mercury accumulate in the nervous system, neurotoxicity is characterized, which can be perceived through some signs and symptoms, the main ones being:

  • Sudden and frequent changes in mood;
  • Nervousness, anxiety and irritability;
  • Sleep disorders such as insomnia and frequent nightmares
  • Memory problems;
  • Headache and migraine;
  • Dizziness and labyrinthitis;
  • Delusions and hallucinations.

All these changes can happen when there is exposure to high concentrations of mercury, greater than 20 micrograms per cubic meter, which can be achieved over time during work or through food.

Methylmercury is the form of mercury that can most easily lead to intoxication in people, since it is synthesized by bacteria present in the aquatic environment, being accumulated in animals present in the water, mainly fish. Thus, contamination occurs through the ingestion of fish contaminated by mercury. Methylmercury contamination is especially serious during pregnancy because this metal can affect the baby’s brain development and other permanent changes, even if the contamination is treated.

Mercury contamination in rivers

Mercury contamination in rivers

How can contamination happen?

Contamination by mercury or methylmercury can happen in three main ways:

  1. Professional activity, there is a greater risk of contamination in people who work in mining industries, other mining or chlorine-serum factories, manufacturing fluorescent lamps, thermometers, dyes and batteries, since there is greater ease of exposure to mercury. Mercury contamination due to professional activity normally occurs through inhalation, with the accumulation of this metal in the lungs and leading to respiratory problems;
  2. through dental treatments, although not very common and rarely leading to serious health problems, there is a risk of mercury contamination. This type of contamination directly affects the blood, causing damage to the digestive system and permanent neurological damage;
  3. Through the environment, through consumption of contaminated water or fish. This type of contamination is more frequent in riverine populations, such as in the Amazon, mining sites and large use of mercury, but it can also affect anyone who consumes water or food contaminated with this metal, in the event of environmental accidents.

Fish that contain mercury

Some freshwater and saltwater fish are natural sources of mercury, but these have small amounts that are generally not harmful to health. The fish that have a lower risk of contamination by this metal are:

  • Tambaqui, jatuarana, pirapitinga and pacuwhich feed on seeds and fruits, which may contain mercury;
  • Bodo, jaraqui, curimatã and branquinhabecause they feed on the mud present at the bottom of rivers and microorganisms responsible for the synthesis of methylmercury;
  • Arowana, pirarara, cará, mandi, matrinchã and cuiu-cuiuwhich feed on insects and plankton.
  • Dourada, cub, piranha, peacock bass, surubim, hake and painted, because they feed on other smaller fish, accumulating greater amounts of mercury.

However, in case of environmental accidents, when there is mercury contamination in a certain region, all fish from the affected areas should not be consumed because they may contain high doses of mercury in their meat, which can cause intoxication in humans.

What to do if you suspect you are infected

In case of suspected contamination, a medical appointment should be made and informed of the suspicion, and the doctor should request tests to check the amount of mercury in the blood.

Confirmation of contamination can be done through a blood test that measures the amount of mercury in the blood or by measuring the amount in the hair shaft. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the maximum concentration of mercury in hair should be less than 7 µg/g. Other tests may also be needed to measure the health consequences of mercury, such as MRI, electroencephalogram, hormone tests, and organ-specific tests, depending on the tissues affected.

Treatment for mercury contamination

The treatment can be done through the use of chelating drugs that facilitate the elimination of mercury, which must be indicated by the doctor. In addition, it may be necessary to take medication to combat anxiety and depression, if they arise as a result of contamination, and supplementation with vitamin C, E and selenium. The follow-up of a psychologist or psychiatrist can be an important help to complement the treatment, improving the quality of life of the individual. See how you can avoid mercury contamination.

Learn more about treatment for mercury poisoning.

Always consult a doctor.

Verified by RJ985 – Brazilian natural medicine

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