The Symptoms Of Mercury Poisoning -
The 5 Signs To Look For

The symptoms of mercury poisoning can be very vague at first. This is because symptoms usually appear gradually, and can be easily missed or mistaken.

You don't always get ALL the symptoms. Sometimes just two or three can appear. It depends on the type of mercury you have been exposed to, the dose of mercury that you have been exposed to, and for how long.

There are 3 forms of mercury, and each of them can cause specific symptoms. The 3 forms of mercury are:

  • Methyl mercury.
  • Elemental mercury.
  • Other mercury compounds (inorganic and organic)

Methyl Mercury is generally considered to be the most toxic and most dangerous form of mercury. Let's take a look at why.

Symptoms of Mercury Poisoning

Methyl Mercury.

The younger you are, the more Methyl Mercury can cause problems. An unborn baby's growing brain and nervous system can be affected by methyl mercury in fish and shell fish eaten by the mother. This is because growing and developing nerve tissue absorbs methyl mercury very quickly.

The baby may develop poorer thinking skills, poorer memory and language, and also poorer hand-eye coordination than other children of the same age.


How do we know about the effects of mercury poisoning? After all, we can't poison volunteers to see what happens! No, we can work out the effects of mercury poisoning from what happened to people affected by accidental mercury exposure.

There have been several cases in recent years of Methyl Mercury poisoning. The two most important ones occurred in Minamata in Japan, and the the other in Iraq.

In Minamata, over 2,000 people developed Methyl Mercury poisoning after eating fish containing high levels of the compound. The original source of the mercury was an industrial plant releasing contaminated waste water into Minamata Bay.

In Iraq, farmers in the South were given wheat grain for planting that had been treated with Methyl Mercury as an anti-fungal agent. The farmers were supposed to PLANT the wheat grain and grow new crops.

However, without enough food for their families, the farmers ignored the instructions to plant the grain, and they just ground the grain into flour, and made bread with it. Of course, the flour was highly contaminated with Methyl Mercury.

Within months, symptoms of mercury poisoning began to appear.

These awful accidents tell us that an unborn baby's developing nervous system is extremely sensitive to Methyl Mercury; we know this because many babies born in the affected areas shortly afterwards had typical mercury poisoning disabilities, even though their mothers had absolutely NO symptoms of mercury poisoning at all.

symptoms of mercury poisoningThis baby is healthy

Symptoms of Methyl Mercury poisoning:

In addition to the symptoms listed above, other symptoms of Methyl Mercury poisoning MAY include the following;

  • problems with vision, particularly peripheral vision.
  • A feeling of "pins and needles" in the hands and feet. This may progress to outright numbness.
  • A general lack of co-ordination when moving around and walking.
  • Problems with speech and hearing.
  • A general muscle weakness

SO, that's it for Methyl Mercury symptoms. What about pure mercury?

Elemental (pure) mercury effects;

Pure mercury (ie. the element mercury as a liquid metal at room temperature) causes health effects when you breath the fumes. This is because it is absorbed straight into the lungs. You might think that this type of exposure only happens in industrial accidents, but it can also happen in the home if you break an older type of thermometer containing mercury, or the newer energy-efficient light bulbs, for example.

There is evidence that some small amount of mercury vapor comes off dental amalgam fillings. This is increased by heat (ie. eating hot food) and by grinding your teeth.

This mercury vapor is then absorbed by breathing it in, rather than by swallowing it. So the mercury does not go through your stomach here; it is inhaled into your lungs, and from there it gets into your blood stream.

But here's a strange thing - if you have a blood test to look for mercury, it may well come back negative, even though you have a number of symptoms of mercury poisoning.

WHY is that?

Mercury in your blood circulation does not stay in your blood for long. It gets deposited very quickly into your kidneys, liver and spinal cord areas. So your blood levels of mercury may be low, but that's only because the mercury has set up home elsewhere.

So what's the best way to test for mercury in your system? There is NO reliable and definitive test that absolutely tells you that you have too much mercury in your system. Even hair testing. There are simply too many other things that can give you the wrong impression.

A diagnosis of mercury poisoning can best be made from the symptoms of mercury poisoning, PLUS detailed questioning to establish a recent acute exposure to mercury. This can be hard to pin down sometimes. For example, there was a case some years ago of children developing symptoms of mercury poisoning, despite no obvious cause.

Eventually, the source was tracked down to broken fluorescent light tubes in the corner of a greenhouse where the children used to play among the plants.

For more information about amalgam fillings, go to Amalgam Filling Replacement.

Symptoms of elemental mercury effects:

  • Your hands may start to shake slightly.
  • You may experience rapid mood changes; for example irritability, nervousness, and feeling shy or unsure of yourself.
  • You might have difficulty in falling asleep, or sleep poorly.
  • There can be a general weakness in your muscles.
  • You could experience regular headaches.
  • Sometimes there may be altered sensations to light, sound and touch.
  • If you have any psychological tests, the results can show up a reduced capacity to solve problems.
symptoms of mercury poisoningA hand shaking can indicate mercury poisoning

Effects of other mercury compounds.

A high exposure to inorganic mercury can cause damage to your gut, your nervous system, and your kidneys. All types of mercury compounds can be absorbed in your stomach and gut, and then go on to affect other parts of your body.

You can be exposed to inorganic mercury in certain cosmetics, modern energy-efficient light bulbs, folk medicines, traditional photography, and some old-style disinfectants.

If you have been exposed to a high level of inorganic mercury you might get some of the following:

  • A feeling of weakness in your muscles.
  • Rapid changes of mood, from elation to despair, and back again.
  • You may have difficulty remembering things, or simply become forgetful.
  • You could get some odd skin rashes or a flare-up of dermatitis.
  • Your friends may notice that you start to behave oddly or irrationally

If you are worried about possible symptoms of mercury poisoning, you should arrange to see your physician as quickly as possible. He will be able to assess your symptoms and make some tests to confirm the problem.

Treatment of acute mercury poisoning is with an oral medicine called DMSA. You can read more about this at my page on mercury chelation.

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I hope my guide to the signs and symptoms of mercury poisoning has been helpful. As always, if you have any doubts, you should see a doctor as soon as possible!

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