Can Mercury Make You Crazy?

Mercury is a liquid metal commonly found in thermometers and barometers. When left at room temperature, mercury evaporates to form colourless mercury vapours which have no smell or colour; these mercury vapours may irritate eyes, skin or respiratory tract systems.

At its worst, nicotine addiction can damage both your brain and kidneys – any daily exposure is still detrimental.


Mercury has long been used in medicine, amalgam production and industrial applications. Over time however, doctors and scientists realized its adverse health impacts in humans; hatters who worked with mercury to stiffen felt for hats often experienced mental changes that manifested as “Mad as a Hatter”. Mercury poisoning may cause symptoms ranging from tremors and hallucinations to irritability and memory loss; therefore if you suspect exposure, seek medical attention immediately.

Elemental mercury is a silvery liquid that quickly turns to vapor at room temperature and can be inhaled easily, becoming highly toxic as soon as it hits your lungs and intestines. Mercury poisoning has numerous adverse health effects including skin inflammation, lung issues, nervous system impairment and placenta permeation for breast milk production; neurologically, symptoms include tremors, mood swings, irritability, incoherent speech patterns and pins-and-needles sensations (paraesthesia); more severe cases can include memory loss, vision changes or incoordination of motion due to mercury poisoning.

Organic mercury found primarily in fish can be toxic when consumed in large quantities for extended periods of time, leading to Minamata Disease – an adverse birth outcome linked to developmental delays, cerebral palsy and brain damage in infants born to mothers exposed to high levels of organic mercury during gestation. Breathing its vapors may lead to respiratory failure, skin rashes and stomach irritation.

Mercury poisoning can occur through various sources, including eating contaminated fish, using dental amalgam, using and manipulating thermometers, working with chlorine or caustic soda, or breathing the vapors from fluorescent light bulbs. Furthermore, mercury can also be found in vaccines against flu, hepatitis B and rabies that contain thimerosal.

KW, a professor who studies occupational exposure to heavy metals, drops a small amount of elemental mercury onto her gloved hand one day and experiences a tingling sensation in it. Over the next few months, her balance and speech become increasingly impaired until a blood test reveals dangerous levels in her blood mercury concentration. To reduce exposure further, doctors prescribe succimer treatment – an organo-mercury binding agent which removes mercury bonded molecules via kidney function.


Mercury is a neurotoxin, damaging both the brain and nervous system when inhaled or consumed, with effects including tremors, memory loss, irritability, depressionanxiety and insomnia being caused by exposure. Mercury can also produce numbing sensations in hands and feet as well as loss of coordination, slurred speech and pins-and-needles sensations; exposure can occur quickly or intermittently and to which form. How much mercury you are exposed to depends on several factors including exposure frequency as well as personal tolerance level – for instance elemental mercury is more dangerous because its heavy form disperses less easily or absorbs through your lungs more rapidly compared with its counterpart methylmercury counterpart.

Chemical exposure to mercury occurs most commonly through eating contaminated fish and shellfish (methylmercury), but may also occur through inhaling elemental mercury vapor or prolonged contact with organic mercury compounds. Mercury can also enter the environment when an item containing mercury breaks open and releases contamination into air, soil or water supplies.

Inorganic mercury can be found in products like batteries and thermometers. It’s also used as a preservative in some skin creams and cosmetics, though its primary risk lies when broken down into its organic form found in certain fish, shellfish, plants, bacteria and fungi. Eating or ingesting too much mercury may result in neurological damage; this condition has been dubbed “mad hatter disease,” since hatters once used metallic mercury (elemental mercury) to shine the felt on top hats; although its roots go deeper back.

KW was exposed to mercury that is lipophilic, preferring fat tissue over bloodstream. Therefore, it could not have entered her red blood cells-dominated circulation; rather it had to make its way through her 60% fat brain tissue instead. Over time, this caused oxidative stress with protein complexes forming that killed brain cells causing neurologic decline; treatment included chelating agents that compete with sulfhydryl groups present in toxic mercury forms in order to bind and remove it from tissues as well as providing her neostigmine (Prostigmin Bromide) for motor function aid and polythiol to bind mercury found in bile secretions bile.


Mercury is highly toxic in its elemental form, turning to an odorless cloud at room temperature that quickly penetrates lungs. Mercury’s toxic vapor enters blood-brain barrier crossing quickly through lung breathing to injure central nervous system function causing changes to mood, personality and hallucinations – symptoms known as mad hatter’s disease from 1865’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland where Alice encountered someone wearing bizarre clothing including large black top hat. People exposed to severe mercury poisoning experience mental and physical disability which leads to mental as well as physical disability compared to mental disability caused by inhaling mercury poisoning.

Mercury poisoning occurs through exposure to methylmercury, which is produced when inorganic salt forms are converted to organic via bacteria-driven conversion and bioaccumulated in the environment. Methylmercury can be consumed through seafood such as swordfish and shark; alternative sources may include dental fillings, skin injuries caused by dental work and inhaling mercury vapour from factories that manufacture batteries, evaporators or mercury switches.

Mercury vapour exposure can lead to pneumonitis. The metallic silvery liquid, which is both odorless and tasteless, can corrode skin, eyes and the digestive tract – as well as being highly toxic for neurological function – such as tremors and memory loss. Long-term exposure may result in gingivitis with copious salivation; at higher exposure levels this can produce “mercurial tremors”: fine muscle fasciculations punctuated with coarse shaking that cause fine muscular fasciculations punctuated with coarse shaking; other symptoms include irritability slurred speech as well as “pins and needles” sensation in hands and feet.

Low-dose methylmercury exposure during rodent gestation has long-lasting behavioral repercussions, particularly among prefrontal cortex neurons. This suggests that human fetal exposure to excessive levels of methylmercury could have long-lasting impacts even after birth.

Chelation is the best method for treating mercury poisoning, utilizing specific binders that encase mercury within water-soluble chemical structures that trap it inside their molecules and excrete it through kidneys. Succimer is an efficient chelator with the shape necessary to fit organomercury molecules; its use leads to less painful removal from your body than surgical removal; however, multiple treatments may be needed depending on severity.


Mercury poisoning can affect anyone, but is especially detrimental for unborn babies and young children, according to research conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Methylmercury exposure – usually through eating fish – can result in mental and motor skills deficits due to it crossing over into the blood-brain barrier and leading to symptoms like tremors, memory problems and difficulty walking.

Mercury poisoning usually results from eating too many mercury-contaminated fish or inhaling mercury vapors; small children have smaller lung capacities than adults and thus are more vulnerable. Certain workplace environments, including coal mining or manufacturing products that contain mercury, also put people at risk.

Metallic mercury found in barometers and thermometers generally is safe to handle and consume because it remains in a solid form and doesn’t absorb into skin or intestines, however long-term inhalation or consumption could produce toxic levels of methylmercury which has serious adverse health impacts.

Eaten too many high mercury fish such as shark and swordfish can increase levels of methylmercury, leading to cognitive and behavioral issues according to Khubchandani. These symptoms include irritability, memory problems, trouble thinking and vision changes as well as muscle function problems causing tremors or the sensation of pins and needles in muscles.

Pregnant women are particularly at risk of mercury poisoning because methylmercury can cross through the placenta into a fetus’s system and damage its brain and nervous system, potentially resulting in developmental problems for their child.

There are many steps you can take to protect yourself against mercury poisoning, including limiting the amount of fish you eat, not eating while pregnant and avoiding species with high mercury concentrations like tilefish, tuna, king mackerel and swordfish. Furthermore, personal protective equipment should always be worn when handling chemicals containing mercury; and taking chelator medications will help your body rid itself of excess mercury deposits. It may take weeks or months before fully detoxing from mercury exposure so it is crucial that this practice continues until all exposure stops.

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