Mercury exists in many forms – inorganic, organic and elemental – however, it is incredibly toxic and the side effects on the body can differ based on the form in which the body is exposed to. Exposure to high levels of mercury can affect the lungs, kidneys, eyes and skin and tend to affect young children and infants the most severely. Mercury comes from deep inside the Earth’s crust and enters the environment through volcanic activity, human interaction (mining, coal burning, industrial processes, etc.) and weathering. It also commonly found in dental work where dentists used mercury for fillings beginning in the 1800s.
Organic mercury, also called methylmercury, is a type of mercury that is transformed into bacteria commonly found in fish. Fish tend to have a large population with concentrations of mercury because there is a food chain reaction – small fish ingests mercury, big fish (predators such as sharks and swordfish) eats smaller fish and then has circulating levels of mercury in the body. This also poses a threat to humans who eat certain fish with a risk of high levels of mercury.
The most common way to be exposed to mercury is through the consumption of shellfish or fish that are contaminated with methylmercury and inhalation of elemental vapors. Exposure from amalgam fillings is much less common, however, there are studies that show amalgam fillings can expose a person to mercury vapor over long periods of time (depending on the age of the filling). Another less common way of exposure is via pregnancy – more specifically in utero. A mother’s body passes anything and everything to a baby in utero so if the mother is being exposed to mercury in any way, the baby will be getting that as well with the nutrients. Every pregnant woman has most likely been told to stay away from certain foods like sushi and this is because among other risks, a baby is incredibly vulnerable in utero and exposure to mercury can affect development of the nervous system and brain function.
Risks and Health Effects
Inhaling mercury vapors can affect the lungs, kidneys, immune, digestive and neurological systems and could even be fatal. Studies have shown possible links to disease such as Alzheimer’s, cognitive dysfunction and tremors – to name a few. An example of the horrors of mercury poisoning was shown between 1930 and 1970 when a small, industrial town in Minamata, Japan was dumping organic mercury waste into the bay – contaminating the fish which people would eventually eat. This ecological disaster introduced the Minamata disease, where thousands of people were poisoned with mercury from the fish that were contaminated and suffered from neurological disorders and some even experienced paralysis. The risks of certain health effects will vary on a few factors such as exposure duration, age, dosage and the format in which the exposure occurred (through skin, inhalation or by ingesting).
Furthering research in the dangers of mercury on our environment and bodies will aid in keeping communities worldwide safe and mercury-free. Dentists, such as Dr. Sheri, are among the healthcare providers around the world working towards helping patients with the safe removal of amalgam fillings. The best way to seek safe mercury removals is to find a holistic practitioner who is SMART certified by the IAOMT and follows the mercury safe protocol. For more information on the practice of safe mercury removal, please give our office a call or visit our website!