Learn how this chemical element, found in several foods and in the environment, can be poisonous to the body.
Mercury is a heavy metal normally found naturally in the earth’s crust. It comes in three forms: elemental, inorganic and organic. Organic mercury is not dangerous. According to the specialty journal Investigación y Ciencia, however, it can be poisonous when certain bacteria decompose it and turn it into methylmercury, which is found in some fish and seafood.
The most common form of exposure is with elemental mercury, which happens when you inhale vaporized mercury. People who work in coal mining or at factories that have products containing mercury are more exposed to this type of mercury.
According to the World Health Organization, the following are some of the most common symptoms of a person who has been exposed to high levels of mercury:
- Memory problems or they may be more irritable.
- A lack of coordination, the inability to walk, muscle weakness, numbness or a tingling sensation.
- Difficulty breathing.
- When vaporized mercury is inhaled, this can cause headaches, insomnia, dizziness and in more severe cases, blindness and seizures.
- Oral problems, such as a metallic taste in the mouth or swollen gums.
- Organ failure, which in very serious cases can cause death.