Mercury Poisoning

The "Mad Hatter"

Mercury - (also known as quick silver) was named after the fleet-footed messenger of the gods. It is one of the most toxic substances known to man. The expression "Mad as a hatter" comes from the twitching and dementia once common among hatters, who softened felt by dipping it in mercuric nitrate. The toxic effects of Mercury were not known until the late 1950's when it was associated with incidents of brain damage and nervous systems disorders.

Mercury can cause severe and permanent nerve and kidney damage. Mercury toxicity seems to contribute to allergy problems, so any allergy symptoms can be prolonged or made worse by it. Mercury can be vaporized and inhaled from the atmosphere or ingested from eating plants or animals, which have absorbed it.

A few years ago mercury was a problem because of the uncontrolled dumping of mercury treated industrial waste into the environment. Today State and Federal agencies closely regulate the discharges of mercury and mercury use in agriculture to provide an increased margin of safety.

In addition to the above environmental sources Mercury can also be found in some common household items such as: Mercury switches, thermometers, thermostats and blood pressure cuffs. Some religious groups have also been known to use Mercury, sprinkling it around their homes.

Mercury poisoning has the following symptoms:

Rapid heartbeat
Irritability or hostility
Withdrawal or shyness
Memory loss
Peeling of hands and feet
Leg pain
Slight hand tremors
Difficulty with fine motor skills

Young children and children born to women who have been exposed during pregnancy may be especially sensitive.

If you believe you have mercury poisoning you should see a doctor. If you have a mercury spill, open all your windows and contact the Yonkers Fire Dept. If you think you have been or are being exposed to Mercury in the environment you should contact the Westchester County Health Dept.

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