How truly dangerous is low level mercury exposure?

March 21, 2005

Mercury is incredibly toxic and it is very, very dangerous even with minimal exposure. Yet no one really knows at what lowest level of concentration mercury becomes toxic. Researchers are starting to uncover evidence that even at the lowest levels of exposure mercury can be very dangerous. Recently an acquaintance of mine who attends Dartmouth College informed me of some heavy metal research being conducted there. Upon visiting the website I was shocked to find out that the founder, Karen Wetterhahn was killed in a bizarre accident highlighting how truly dangerous mercury is. Professor Wetterhahn was preparing an experiment with dimethyl mercury: a very toxic salt, when a few drops fell on her gloved hand. The latex gloves she was wearing are considered to be highly protective so she wasn't worried. Six months later, she slipped into a coma and died of mercury poisoning. This is one of the puzzles of mercury, it takes time to affect the brain and nervous system and just two drops killed this world class researcher.

Source of mercury: Recently the FDA warned pregnant women and the parents of young children about the amount of contamination in large predatory fish and set guidelines for fish consumption: our oceans are mercury laden. The CDC estimates that up to 600,000 babies in the USA may be exposed to unsafe levels of mercury because so many women of child bearing age have unsafe concentrations of mercury in their blood.

Source of mercury: Thermometers are banned in some states because if broken they can release enough toxic mercury vapor to actually make a room toxic.

Source of mercury: Dental amalgams are 50% silver and 50% mercury. The mercury amalgam releases mercury vapor just like a broken thermometer would, and this source is responsible for much of the mercury in our blood according to some sources. There are currently no human studies to evaluate the impact of constant exposure to mercury amalgam vapors and this source of mercury is the least studied.

Source of mercury and possible connection with autism: There is an epidemic of autism, and the numbers according to researchers, reflect a true increase in the number of autistic children, and not just a surge due to a research artifact or because of better diagnostic criteria. The spike in the incidence of autism mirrors an increased number of required childhood immunizations that until recently used a poorly researched form of mercury as a preservative: thimerosal. Because of new research indicating that even very low level mercury exposure can affect the development of the brain and nerve tissue the FDA is working with manufacturers to lower the concentration of mercury or remove thimerosal completely from drugs that are used to inoculate children less than 6 years of age.

Commentary by Jerry Hickey, R.Ph.

Particular nutrients aid the detoxification of mercury, among them are Phyllanthus Amarus, NAC, and DMSA. Alpha-Lipoic acid and Acetyl-L-Carnitine along with green and red formulas may help protect key sites of mercury toxicity including brain and nerve tissue.