Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can affect the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to one in 10 women in the U.S. already carry enough mercury in their blood to pose a threat of neurological damage to the fetus.
Exposure to Mercury
Only a few years ago, many devices used in the health care setting contained mercury. Due to the efforts of organizations such as Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), many of these devices have been phased out in favor of mercury-free devices. The HCWH Mercury page contains a wealth of resources to help health care facilities phase out mercury containing devices.
Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) contain a small amount of mercury. They need to be disposed of properly (not in your regular trash) and you should follow these cleanup recommendations from the EPA if one accidentally breaks. Cleaning up a Broken CFL
Fish can be an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Unfortunately some fish can contain high levels of mercury. This occurs through bioaccumulation. The Monterey Aquarium has developed a series of resources to help consumers learn about which fish are safe to eat as well as which to avoid. Their resources also take into account other factors such as overfishing. They also offer a great pocket guide and iPhone application to help you make informed fish consumption decisions. Go to: Seafood Watch.
Other forms of exposure to mercury are through Vegetables(mushrooms), cereals, meats, drinking water, and silver dental fillings.
Health Effects of Mercury
Here is a good resource for learning more about mercury: Health Effects of Mercury
Some health effects include:
- Lung irritation (when inhaled)
- Cough (when inhaled)
- Chest pain (when inhaled)
- Nervous system effects such as: Tremors, impaired memory,seizures, language and attention deficits, brain damage
- Reproductive and developmental effects such as: Increased miscarriages, infant deafness, blindness, Cerebral Palsy, low birth weight
- Kidney damage
- Possibly cancer
- Cardiovascular effects
How to Avoid Mercury in your Daily Life
Try to buy products that are Mercury-free.Try to avoid eating large fish often. Fish that are high in mercury include: Orange roughy, king mackerel , shark, swordfish, tilefish, ahi tuna, and big eye tuna. NRDC- Mercury Guide