- Metallic mercury—a shiny, silver-white, odorless liquid that becomes a colorless, odorless gas when heated
- Methylmercury—a chemical made up of mercury combined with carbon; mainly produced by microscopic organisms in the water and soil
- Mercury salts—white powders or crystals formed when mercury combines with elements such as chlorine, sulfur, or oxygen
- Breathing airborne mercury vapors
- Eating contaminated food, especially fish or shellfish—Larger and older fish tend to have the highest levels of mercury.
- Drinking water contaminated with mercury (rare)
- Practicing religious or folk medicine rituals that include mercury
- Dental services
- Health services
- The chemical industry
- Other industries that use mercury
- Electric meter repair
- Eating over 6 ounces of white albacore tuna per week
- Eating over 12 ounces a week of fish and shellfish that is considered lower in mercury, such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish
- Practicing rituals that include mercury
|Widespread Toxicity in Infant|
|Fetuses and young children are more vulnerable to the effects of mercury poisoning.|
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- Redness of the extremities, chest, and nose (dusky pink hands and feet)
- Peeling of the hands and feet
- Painful extremities
- Changes in vision or hearing
- Memory problems
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Rapid heart beat
- Eye irritation
- Breathing problems
- Painful mouth
- Abdominal pain
- Fever and/or chills
- Difficulty concentrating
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Scalp hair analysis
- Avoid using metallic mercury for any purpose.
- If you must use metallic mercury, keep it safely stored in a leak-proof container in a secure space, such as a locking closet.
- Trade in old thermometers or barometers containing mercury for new ones that do not.
- Carefully handle and dispose of items containing mercury, such as thermometers and fluorescent light bulbs.
- Do not vacuum or heat spilled mercury.
- Teach children not to play with silver liquids.
- Properly dispose of old medications that contain mercury.
- Keep mercury-containing medications away from children.
- Learn about wildlife and fish advisories in your area from your local public health or natural resources department.
Limit fish intake to recommended quantities and avoid fish known to be contaminated by mercury:
- Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish.
- Eat up to 12 ounces of fish and shellfish considered lower in mercury per week. These fish include shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.
- Eat up to 6 ounces of white albacore tuna per week.
- If you want to eat local fish, check to make sure the water is not contaminated. In general, limit your intake of local fish to 6 ounces.
- Remove children from the area.
- DO NOT use a vacuum cleaner.
- Carefully roll the bead of mercury onto a sheet of paper or suck it up with an eyedropper.
- Place the bead in a bag or airtight container.
- Contact your local health department to find out how to dispose of the mercury and paper or eye dropper.
- Ventilate the room to the outside.
- Use fans to speed ventilation for at least 1 hour.
United States Environmental Protection Agency http://www.epa.gov
United States Food and Drug Administration http://www.fda.gov
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca
Composite filings. American Dental Association's Mouth Healthy website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/c/composite-fillings.aspx. Accessed February 16, 2015.
Kelly BC, Ikonomou MG, et al. Mercury and other trace elements in farmed and wild salmon from British Columbia, Canada. Environ Toxicol Chem. 2008;27(6):1361-1370.
Oken E, Bellinger DC. Fish consumption, methylmercury and child neurodevelopment. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2008;20(2):178-183.
ToxFAQs for mercury. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry website. Available at: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=1195&tid=24. Updated August 27, 2014. Accessed February 16, 2015.
What you need to know about mercury in fish and shellfish. Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm110591.htm. Updated June 10, 2014. Accessed February 16, 2015.
12/10/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Vearrier D, Greenberg MI. Care of patients who are worried about mercury poisoning from dental fillings. J Am Board Fam Med. 2010;23(6):797-798.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 02/2015 -
- Update Date: 03/18/2013 -