Mercury poisoning

Toxic effects of mercury on the body. The most common cause of mercury poisoning is breathing in vapour given off by liquid mercury, usually as a result of industrial exposure. Swallowing a small amount of liquid mercury is unlikely to lead to poisoning. Mercury compounds may cause poisoning by absorption through the intestines (causing nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain) or the skin (causing severe inflammation). After entering the body, mercury accumulates in organs, principally the brain and kidneys. Mercury deposits in the brain cause tiredness, incoordination, excitability, tremors, and numbness in the limbs. In severe cases, there may be impaired vision and dementia. Deposits of mercury in the kidneys may lead to kidney failure. Treatment may involve chelating agents, which help the body to excrete the mercury quickly; haemodialysis (see dialysis); and induced vomiting or pumping out the stomach, if mercury has been swallowed within the previous few hours.


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