Mercury Toxicity -- More Prevalent Than We Know?
Recent years have seen an upsurge in awareness of mercury toxicity. Mercury is known to impair functioning of the thyroid, pituitary, kidneys and adrenal glands. Symptoms of mercury toxicity are wide and varied: loss of appetite, birth defects, depression, skin rash, dizziness, fatigue, hormone imbalances, hair loss, headaches, insomnia, memory loss, mood swings, numbness and tingling, excess salivation, anxiety, cardiovascular disturbances, immune suppression and muscle weakness. Multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, migraine headaches and other nervous system disorders have been identified as being caused or exacerbated by mercury toxicity.
Mercury is a naturally occurring element found in soil and rocks. It also exists in lakes, streams and oceans. In addition to natural sources, mercury is released into the environment by human activities such as pulp and paper processing, mining operations, and burning garbage and fossil fuels, especially coal. Forty tons of mercury is released into the air every year by coal-burning power plants, which eventually finds its way into the food chain.
There are many everyday products in the home that contribute to mercury toxicity. These include broken thermometers, cosmetics, fabric softeners, felt, film, seafood, fungicides, floor waxes, mercurochrome, merthiolate, paints, plastics, lens solutions and wood preservatives. It is also one of the main components in childhood vaccinations. Thus, mercury has also been implicated in neurological disorders of children such as autism and ADD/ADHD
In oceans, lakes and rivers, mercury is usually found as a chemical compound called methyl mercury, which binds tightly to the proteins in fish tissue. Most fish have trace amounts of methyl mercury, and when its level in the aquatic environment is high, its level in fish is high as well. Furthermore, mercury tends to accumulate in the food chain, so predatory fish species tend to have higher levels than non-predatory fish or species at lower levels in the food chain.
There has been a plethora of recent media articles about mercury levels in certain species of fish. High levels of mercury have been found in shark, swordfish, fresh and frozen tuna and oysters. Tests on whale meat on sale in Japan have also revealed astonishing levels of mercury. One article reported that women who eat a lot of fish during pregnancy, or even as little as a single serving of a highly contaminated fish, can expose their developing child to excessive levels of mercury. The toxic metal can cross the placenta to harm the rapidly developing nervous system, including the brain.
Although environmental sources of mercury do contribute to a toxic buildup in human tissues, scientific research has shown that "silver" dental fillings, most commonly called "amalgams," are the primary source of mercury in the human body. Amalgams are still used by most dentists in the United States.