Mercury Poisoning: Causes, Signs and Symptoms & Medico-Legal Importance

An injection is kept aside mercury balls where Mercury Poisoning is written.

The kind of medical disease caused due to the inhalation of mercury is asserted as mercury poisoning. It is assumed to be available in different variations amidst our surroundings. 

Mercury is a heavy metal that is harmful to our health, and its excess inhalation or intake leads to the mercury poisoning phenomenon within individuals. It can spread due to intake of food substances that comprise mercury or due to coming into contact with it, which sometimes leads to death and other disastrous conditions.

Inhalation of such substances is often exposed from fishes/shellfishes, which humans tend to consume in their diet. Such circumstances arise because industrial factories throw out their contaminated industrial wastes into the river, which contains methylmercury in huge amounts, which get accumulated within the fishes and post the consumption of those fishes humans suffer from mercury poisoning.

Apart from these, numerous other reasons lead to these troublesome conditions, so let us discuss them more thoroughly.

Toxic Compounds of Mercury Poisoning

The composition of mercury poisons is made up of organic salts and inorganic salts, which make them fatal for humankind.

Brief Description of the Composition 

Inorganic Salts 

  • Mercuric chloride (This compound consists of colorless and odorless white crystalline powder, which comes with a weird, nauseating smell. This compound is the most crucial element which leads to mercury poisoning). 
  • Mercuric sulfide (Less poisoning compound which is absorbed through the skin layers and is also known as vermillion or cinnabar).
  • Mercurous chloride (Known as calomel, it is a scented solid white color powder which sometimes tends to be amorphous too).
  • Mercuric Cyanide and Oxide (It is a kind of scarlet red color powder). 
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Organic Salts

  • Methyl Mercury
  • Dimethyl
  • Mercury
  • Ethyl Mercury 
  • Phenyl Mercury.

Causes of Mercury Poisoning

We all know that seafood is the baseline that leads to mercury poisoning, but other factors lead to the spreading of mercury poisoning within humans. Huge industrial waste from factories, medical waste from hospitals, and harmful chemicals from pharmaceutical companies also comprise mercury components that affect humankind when released into the surroundings.

Major Causes of Poisoning

• Dental Fillings 

• Vaccine remainings

• Touching broken thermometers

• Seafood ( most prominent ) 

• Inhalation of toxic gases released nearby chemical factories

• Exposure to old and terrible scented jewelry or paints

• Gold Minings

Signs and Symptoms of Mercury Poisoning

Hands of a person suffering from Acrodynia from Elemental mercury

Acrodynia from Elemental mercury

Mercury Poisoning leads to several problems in the body and affects the human body system in multiple ways. However, the level of symptoms in adults and children differ from each other. 

Some common symptoms are mentioned below: 

  • It is seen that the person suffering from mercury poisoning exhibits a lack of coordination within their body.
  • The muscles become weak and are unable to perform even simple exercises.
  • The individual is unable to walk or speak and faces severe difficulties.
  • Memory loss and unusual mood changes are some of the most common symptoms of mercury poisoning.
  • Difficulty in breathing system and kidney damage in extreme cases.
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Let’s now discuss symptoms between adults and children in a detailed manner.

Symptoms in Adults

• Taste of metallic smell in the mouth

• Contusions nausea feeling and vomiting

• Lack of senses while touching hands or other body parts

• Unable to stand straight for nominal purposes

• Reduces sperm count in males

• Leads to heart attack and other heart diseases

We have discussed how mercury affects adults, and now we would move to the other aspect of how this deadly poison affects children.

Symptoms in Children

• Slows down the growth of the body

• Lacks coordination while moving with hands or eyes.

• Children tend to forget about the surroundings

• Leads to impairing of the motor skills 

• Unable to understand simple language

Uses of Mercury

This compound being harmful, still comes with medicinal and industrial usage.

Medicine Uses 

  • The most prominent use of mercury is implemented for treating Syphilis in hospitals.
  • It’s also used as disinfectants and dental amalgam.

Industrial Uses

  • It’s used for the manufacturing of thermometers, other heavy electronic equipment, strong explosives, etc.
  • Mercury vapor lamps are also produced using this compound by the factories.

Diagnosis of Mercury Poisoning

Doctors would tend to perform certain tests to determine the cause of mercury poisoning within your body and ask about your diet plans.

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• Doctors analyze levels of urine and blood mercury with the help of atomic absorption spectrophotometer.

• Using ‘Neutron Activation Analysis‘, doctors estimate the concentration of mercury in hairs.

Treatment of Mercury Poisoning

There are a bunch of methods for treating the individual suffering from mercury poisoning. Here we’ll discuss some effective treatment methods which can help to isolate this disease from the body.

• Use of Polythiol resins helps in collecting and binding the traits of mercury in the gastrointestinal tract.

• The person should be kept away from exposure to mercury and its harmful components.

• Relevant oral medicines should be used to maintain dental hygiene.

• Proper amount of fluid balance should be maintained within the body. 

Medico-Legal Importance 

• Fewer chances to be used as a suicidal or homicidal poison. 

• Mercury salts lead to the introduction of vaginal or criminal abortion or are used as a contraceptive element that leads to death.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we got to know mercury is a harmful substance that leads to damaging the health of living organisms, whether it’s a fish living in water or humans surviving on earth.

The excretion of mercury from factories needs to be stopped to prevent the contamination of this disease all over in the surroundings and should be used in minimum quantity to treat emergency medical conditions.

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