Mercury: A Potent Toxin With Widespread Health Impacts - News and Education Blog
Quicksilver Scientific
1376 Miners Dr. Lafayette, CO 80026
Phone: (303) 531-0861 Hours: Mon-Fri, 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Quicksilver Scientific LLC Medical & Health United States Are you looking for a scientifically advanced health supplement wholesaler? We sell mercury detoxification and heavy metal tests as well as liposomal products. Monday to Friday: 08:00AM-5:00PM

Mercury: A Potent Toxin With Widespread Health Impacts

Mercury: A Potent Toxin With Widespread Health Impacts

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin—in its liquid form it has even been called ‘liquid death’. It has been designated by the World Health Organization as one of the ten most dangerous chemicals to public health.1 Exposure to as little as 1.3 grams of dimethylmercury causes irreversible neurological problems and death.2

The toxicity of mercury is unsettling because the metal is all around us. Volcanoes, mines, and oceans release mercury into air, soil, and groundwater; however, nearly 80% of environmental mercury is a consequence of human activity such as fossil fuel combustion, agriculture, and mining.3 Developing countries produce and release as much as 200 metric tons of mercury every year.2 The US is no less culpable—we create about 10% of the world’s mercury pollution each year.2

Mercury Toxicity 11 19 CD html c6ca8bd2

Before we can understand mercury’s damaging health effects, we need to know about the different forms. Mercury can exist as elemental (or metallic) mercury, inorganic mercury salts, and organic mercury. Elemental mercury is the silver liquid found in old thermometers and amalgam dental fillings.4 Elemental mercury enters the body primarily through inhalation of mercury vapors. Most of the mercury in water, soil, plants, and animals exists as inorganicmercury salts.5 Organic mercury includes substances such as methylmercury, dimethylmercury, ethylmercury, and phenylmercuric compounds. Organic mercury is freely absorbed in the gut. The main source of organic mercury exposure, in the form of methylmercury, is from contaminated fish. Vaccines that contain the preservative, thimerosal, contain ethylmercury.6 Methylmercury and dimethylmercury are highly toxic.

Mercury Toxicity 11 19 CD html 28c67997

Elemental mercury and most forms of organic mercury (such as methylmercury) are lipophilic, or fat-loving. They can readily cross the blood-brain barrier and the placenta. Once these forms of mercury are absorbed into the bloodstream they can damage the brain, heart, kidneys and numerous tissues and organs throughout the body.7,8 Inhaled elemental mercury is acutely toxic to the lungs, mucous membranes of the mouth, the gastrointestinal tract, the eyes, and the skin. Chronic exposure to elemental mercury vapors has a particularly potent and long-lasting effects on the central nervous system.9

Mercury and the Immune System

Mercury creates a highly destructive, pro-oxidant state that damages immune function. Many immune cells are ultimately damaged, including B cells, total white cell counts, neutrophils, and more.10,11,12 One major target is the T lymphocyte, or the T cell. Mercury blocks the T cell's ability to secrete chemicals, called cytokines, that help coordinate an immune response.2 It also shifts the balance between two types of T cells (helper Th1 and suppressor Th2 cells) to create an environment in which autoimmune disease development is more likely. Essentially, the immune system is shifted toward an excessive helper Th1 response, and this, in conjunction with other factors of risk, leads the immune system cells to recognize normal human proteins as foreign invaders and mount an autoimmune response.13 This relationship is hinted at in epidemiological studies which show that people with autoimmune diseases have higher levels of mercury on average than people without autoimmune diseases.14

Mercury and the Body’s Antioxidant Systems

Mercury impairs the function of our most potent endogenous antioxidant, glutathione. Mercury (particularly methylmercury) binds to glutathione, reducing its availability in the body, as well as creating a glutathione-mercury complex that penetrates virtually all membranes in the body and is highly toxic to cells and tissues.15

Mercury also damages the body through its interference with the important trace mineral selenium. Mercury can actually bind to selenium, indirectly causing a selenium-deficiency state in the body.16 This is significant because mercury then displaces selenium from a family of important enzymes called selenoenzymes, which includes glutathione peroxidase.17 These enzymes have powerful antioxidant ability.18

Mercury and the Nervous, Endocrine and Reproductive Systems

The classic symptoms of acute mercury poisoning include tremor, gingivitis, and bizarre behavior (e.g., excessive shyness or aggression). Inhaled mercury vapor is associated with neuropsychological problems such as emotional lability at high exposures or more subtle motor and memory deficits at low exposures.19

Children are particularly vulnerable to mercury. Numerous studies have shown a correlation between mercury exposure and autism.20,21 Childhood obesity has also been linked to thimerosal-containing vaccines.22

Mercury is a potent disruptor of our adrenal, pituitary, thyroid glands.23 These glands tend to preferentially absorb and store mercury.24 Chronic exposure to mercury has been shown to be associated with autoimmune thyroiditis and subsequent hypothyroidism.25 Mercury in the adrenal gland lowers plasma levels of corticosterone, which can lead to adrenal hyperplasia.26 This effect is believed to contribute to the development of Addison's disease.27

In men, mercury exposure can decrease sperm count, and the sperm cells that are produced have structural problems especially in the tails, which decreases sperm motility.28 Women who are exposed to mercury before or during pregnancy may suffer from menstrual cycle disruption and are at increased risk of miscarriage, preterm delivery, or a newborn with low birth weight.29

Mercury and the Pregnant Woman

Mercury Toxicity 11 19 CD html 2a002a73Pregnant women have reason to be concerned about mercury exposure. The fetus, nestled in the protective womb, is vulnerable to the effects of elemental and organic mercury, because they easily cross from the maternal bloodstream through the placenta.30,31 Heavy metal interference with fetal growth and development can cause long-term physical and cognitive problems. For example, toddlers that were exposed to even low levels of methylmercury during gestation have diminished fine motor skills, correlated with the amount of methylmercury found in the umbilical cord blood.32

Children with in utero exposure to mercury have impaired language and communication skills when measured at the age of five. In this study, it was also found that the amount of seafood consumed during pregnancy correlated with language and communication deficits in the children.33 The neurological effects of mercury on fetuses may extend beyond simple cognitive, motor, and communication deficits. Mercury exposure in prenatal and neonatal periods may increase the risk for autism spectrum disorders.34

Protecting Yourself From Mercury Exposure

Mercury Toxicity 11 19 CD html e0316038Even though mercury is nearly universal in our environment, there are measures we can take to reduce exposure and to mitigate its impact. Perhaps the biggest risk to mercury exposure in the general population is the consumption of mercury contaminated-fish. But not all fish are equal. The amount of mercury contained in seafood varies depending on the species and the source. Fish harvested from polluted freshwater including bass, pike, and walleye may contain high levels of methylmercury. Likewise, fish on the higher end of the food chain such as shark, swordfish, and tuna have particularly high levels of methylmercury because they concentrate the compound from the numerous mercury-contaminated fish that they eat themselves.

Regulatory authorities have established maximum safe levels for mercury in fish, suggesting that only a certain number of fish should be consumed in a given month. These recommendations vary depending on the species of fish and the source; however, without testing the fish directly or monitoring one's blood or urine for mercury it is impossible to determine exactly how much mercury one is consuming. A diet rich in fish can convey a number of health benefits; however, this must be balanced with the risk of mercury exposure.

Certain nutrients may be able to further protect against the effects of mercury. We know that mercury irreversibly inhibits selenoenzymes thioredoxin reductase and glutathione peroxidase.35 These enzymes are important for restoring glutathione, as well as vitamin E, to their reduced forms, so they can function as antioxidants.36 Selenium supplementation to support adequate selenium levels may be protective. A good food source of selenium is the brazil nut. Since mercury exposure decreases the body’s level of glutathione, maintaining adequate glutathione levels is of particular importance. Glutathione supplementation can help to restore levels depleted by mercury exposure. Vitamin E supplementation also may further protect against the pro-oxidative state caused by mercury exposure.37 Of particular importance is binding and removing the toxic mercury from the body, which can be safely and effectively done via oral supplementation with a thiol-functionalized silica, which tightly binds the mercury in the gut, removing it from the body.

To learn more, read on at:

 


1 Bjørklund G, Dadar M, Mutter J, et al. The toxicology of mercury: Current research and emerging trends.

Environ Res. 2017 Nov;159:545-554. View Abstract

2 Nierenberg DW, Nordgren RE, Chang MB, et al. Delayed cerebellar disease and death after accidental exposure to dimethylmercury. N Engl J Med. Jun 04 1998;338(23):1672-1676. View Full Paper

3 Rani L, Basnet B, Kumar A. Mercury Toxicity. Encyclopedia of Environmental Health. Burlington: Elsevier; 2011:705-712.

4 Clarkson TW. The three modern faces of mercury. Environ Health Perspect. Feb 2002;110 Suppl 1:11-23. View Full Paper

5 Fisher JF. Elemental mercury and inorganic mercury compounds: human health aspects. World Health Organization. 2003:8-9. View Full Paper

6 Dorea JG, Farina M, Rocha JB. Toxicity of ethylmercury (and Thimerosal): a comparison with methylmercury. J Appl Toxicol. Aug 2013;33(8):700-711. View Abstract

7 Genchi G, Sinicropi MS, Carocci A et al. Mercury Exposure and Heart Diseases. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Jan 12;14(1). View Abstract

8 Maqbool F, Niaz K, Hassan FI , et al. Immunotoxicity of mercury: Pathological and toxicological effects. J Environ Sci Health C Environ Carcinog Ecotoxicol Rev. 2017 Jan 2;35(1):29-46. View Abstract

9 Andrade VM, Aschner M, Marreilha Dos Santos AP. Neurotoxicity of Metal Mixtures. Adv Neurobiol. 2017;18:227-265. View Abstract PMID: 28889271

10 Gill R, McCabe MJ Jr, Rosenspire AJ. Low level exposure to inorganic mercury interferes with B cell receptor signaling in transitional type 1 B cells.Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2017 Sep 1;330:22-29. View Abstract

11 Guardiola FA, Chaves-Pozo E, Espinosa C, et al. Mercury Accumulation, Structural Damages, and Antioxidant and Immune Status Changes in the Gilthead Seabream (Sparus aurata L.) Exposed to Methylmercury.Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2016 May;70(4):734-46. View Abstract

12 Desforges JP, Sonne C, Levin M, et al. Immunotoxic effects of environmental pollutants in marine mammals. Environ Int. 2016 Jan;86:126-39. View Abstract

13 de Vos G, Abotaga S, Liao Z, et al. Selective effect of mercury on Th2-type cytokine production in humans. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2007;29(3-4):537-548. View Abstract

14 Crowe W, Allsopp PJ, Watson GE, et al. Mercury as an environmental stimulus in the development of autoimmunity - A systematic review. Autoimmun Rev. Jan 2017;16(1):72-80 View Abstract

15 Rubino FM. Toxicity of Glutathione-Binding Metals: A Review of Targets and Mechanisms. Toxics. 2015;3(1):20-62. View Full Paper

16 Das K, Dupont A, De Pauw-Gillet MC et al. Absence of selenium protection against methylmercury toxicity in harbour seal leucocytes in vitro. Mar Pollut Bull. 2016 Jul 15;108(1-2):70-6. View Abstract

17 Suzuki KT, Sasakura C, Yoneda S. Binding sites for the (Hg-Se) complex on selenoprotein P. Biochim Biophys Acta. Dec 08 1998;1429(1):102-112. View Abstract

18 Chen C, Yu H, Zhao J, et al. The Roles of Serum Selenium and Selenoproteins on Mercury Toxicity in Environmental and Occupational Exposure. Environ Health Perspect. 2006;114(2):297-301. View Abstract

19 Clarkson TW. The toxicology of mercury. Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 1997;34(4):369-403.

20 The Putative Role of Environmental Mercury in the Pathogenesis and Pathophysiology of Autism Spectrum Disorders and Subtypes. Mol Neurobiol. 2017 Jul 22. View Abstract

21 Geier DA, Kern JK, Geier MR Increased risk for an atypical autism diagnosis following Thimerosal-containing vaccine exposure in the United States: A prospective longitudinal case-control study in the Vaccine Safety Datalink. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2017 Jul;42:18-24. View Abstract

22 Thimerosal-containing Hepatitis B Vaccine Exposure is Highly Associated with Childhood Obesity: A Case-control Study Using the Vaccine Safety Datalink. N Am J Med Sci. 2016 Jul;8(7):297-306. View Abstract

23 Pantaleão TU, Ferreira ACF, Santos MCS et al. Effect of thimerosal on thyroid hormones metabolism in rats. Endocr Connect. 2017 Nov;6(8):741-74 View Full Paper

24 Zhu X, Kusaka Y, Sato K, et al. The endocrine disruptive effects of mercury. Environ Health Prev Med. 2000 Jan;4(4):174-83. View Full Paper

25Kisakol G. Dental amalgam implantation and thyroid autoimmunity Bratisl Lek Listy. 2014;115(1):22-4. View Abstract

26 Iavicoli I, Fontana L, Bergamaschi A. The effects of metals as endocrine disruptors. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. Mar 2009;12(3):206-223.

27 Wada H, Cristol DA, McNabb FM, et al. Suppressed adrenocortical responses and thyroid hormone levels in birds near a mercury-contaminated river. Environ Sci Technol. Aug 01 2009;43(15):6031-6038. View Abstract

28 Zeng Q, Feng W, Zhou B Urinary metal concentrations in relation to semen quality: a cross-sectional study in China. Environ Sci Technol. 2015 Apr 21;49(8):5052-9. View Abstract

29 Buck Louis GM, Smarr MM, Sundaram R et al. Low-level environmental metals and metalloids and incident pregnancy loss. Reprod Toxicol. 2017 Apr;69:68-74. View Abstract

30 Gundacker C, Neesen J, Straka E. Genetics of the human placenta: implications for toxicokinetics. Arch Toxicol. 2016 Nov;90(11):2563-2581. View Abstract

31 Gundacker C, Hengstschläger M. The role of the placenta in fetal exposure to heavy metals. Wien Med Wochenschr. 2012 May;162(9-10):201-6. View Abstract

32 Prpic I, Milardovic A, Vlasic-Cicvaric I, et al. Prenatal exposure to low-level methylmercury alters the child's fine motor skills at the age of 18 months. Environ Res. Jan 2017;152:369-374 View Abstract

33 Vejrup K, Brandlistuen RE, Brantsaeter AL, et al. Prenatal mercury exposure, maternal seafood consumption and associations with child language at five years. Environ Int. Jan 2018;110:71-79. View Abstract

34 Yoshimasu K, Kiyohara C, Takemura S, et al. A meta-analysis of the evidence on the impact of prenatal and early infancy exposures to mercury on autism and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder in the childhood. Neurotoxicology. Sep 2014;44:121-131. View Abstract

35 Branco V, Canario J, Lu J, et al. Mercury and selenium interaction in vivo: effects on thioredoxin reductase and glutathione peroxidase. Free Radic Biol Med. Feb 15 2012;52(4):781-793. View Abstract

36 Ganther HE. Modification of methylmercury toxicity and metabolism by selenium and vitamin E: possible mechanisms. Environ Health Perspect. 1978 Aug; 25: 71–76. View Full Paper

37 Al-Attar AM. Vitamin E attenuates liver injury induced by exposure to lead, mercury, cadmium and copper in albino mice. Saudi J Biol Sci. Oct 2011;18(4):395-401. View Full Paper

Keeping Holiday Stress in Check
Quicksilver Scientific Holidays Schedule

Related Posts

 

Comments

No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Already Registered? Login Here
Guest
Tuesday, 12 December 2017
If you'd like to register, please fill in the username, password and name fields.