What Happens To Your Body When You Eat Too Much Mercury

Unless one works in a gold mine, strips old housing materials for repurposing, or breaks a vintage thermometer, mercury poisoning isn't something most people worry about. New sources are popping up, however, and some of these sources are even making it to the dinner table.

A 2016 study by Tim Stephens, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at University of California Santa Cruz, revealed that mercury levels in North American rainfall are increasing. This increase was most noticeable in the center of the country but it corresponds with an increase of mercury in the oceans as well, as reported in 2014 by the National Science Foundation.

When water-based mercury levels go up, so do levels in fish. Small fish absorb small amounts of mercury. When bigger fish eat them, all that mercury collects in their systems. Humans then consume bigger fish, such as tuna, including that concentration of mercury. Humans can't clear mercury from their bodies on their own, and over time this build up can lead to some nasty side effects.

Symptoms and sources of mercury poisoning

Mercury exposure symptoms depend on the mercury type. According to the FDA methylmercury, the mercury common in fish affects adults and older children in specific ways. Symptoms include muscle weakness, "pins and needles" in the hands and feet and around the mouth, loss of peripheral vision, and loss of coordination when moving.

Pregnant women should take special care to avoid methylmercury. The mercury a pregnant woman consumes is passed along to the fetus in her womb, and even small amounts can affect fetal development. The March of Dimes reports that mercury exposure in the womb can lead to hearing issues, vision problems, and complications associated with brain development. A comprehensive list of safe and non-safe seafood options for those trying to avoid mercury during pregnancy is available on their website.

The symptoms above are all related to methylmercury. Exposure to metallic mercury manifests with a different set of symptoms ,as outlined by the EPA. These include mood swings, unusual and excessive shyness, anxiety and depression, headaches, muscle weakness and twitching, tremors, and insomnia. While most metallic mercury exposure comes from CFL bulbs and broken vintage thermometers, those who live in heavily industrial areas, or who process old housing components to extract gold are at risk.

If you think you are suffering mercury poisoning, seek medical help as soon as possible. There are no proven home remedies to detox from mercury exposure, therefore, medical grade treatments administered by doctors is the safe option.