What is Mercury?
Mercury, also known as quicksilver, is a heavy, silvery-white metal and is one of two metals that are liquid at room temperature. Historically, it was used medicinally as a diuretic and to treat syphilis, a remedy for constipation, depression, child-bearing and toothaches. Its use in thermometers, barometers and other medical devices was phased out over concerns about its environmental hazards. It remains in use in scientific research applications and in lighting: alternating current electricity passed through mercury vapor in a fluorescent lamp produces visible light. It continues to be used in dental amalgams and vaccines despite overwhelming evidence of its toxicity.
Mercury is extremely toxic and must be handled with great care. Mercury can be absorbed through the skin and mucous membranes, while mercury vapors can be inhaled. The most toxic forms of mercury are its organic compounds, methyl and di-methyl mercury. Inorganic compounds are also highly toxic by ingestion or inhalation and causes chronic and acute poisoning.
What are the Different Types of Mercury?
Methylmercury is an organic form found in fish and other animal tissues. Although methylmercury is easily absorbed and mobile, it is very difficult to eliminate as it accumulates in biological tissues. Predatory animals will absorb methylmercury contained in its victim. As a result, animals higher on the food chain tend to have more methylmercury in their tissues than those lower on the food chain. This process of methylmercury exposure is known as bioaccumulation. Bioaccumulation results in fish having over one million times higher methylmercury concentrations than the water they swim in.
Inorganic mercury refers to mercuric ion. Inorganic mercury is highly toxic but not very mobile. Inorganic mercury in soils and food sources does not pass easily into biological tissues. However, once inside of the tissue, inorganic mercury is very difficult to remove. Inorganic mercury accumulates in tissues when a more mobile form of mercury such as elemental mercury vapor, methylmercury or ethylmercury enters the tissue and breaks down into inorganic mercury. In biological tissues, most organic forms of mercury will eventually break down into inorganic mercury.
Like methylmercury, ethylmercury is an organic form of mercury present in soil sediments or petroleum hydrocarbons. Ethylmercury is used as a component of vaccine preservatives (thimerosal). Vaccines are the most common exposure route for this organic form of mercury. Like methylmercury, ethylmercury can move easily into biological tissues but tends to break down into inorganic mercury more rapidly than methylmercury.
Some Signs of Mercury Toxicity
Metallic mercury vapors or organic mercury affects many different areas of the brain and associated functions, resulting in a variety of symptoms including personality changes (irritability, shyness, nervousness), tremors, changes in vision (narrowing of the visual field), deafness, loss of sensation loss of muscle coordination, and difficulties with memory. Permanent damage to the brain has also been shown to occur from exposure to sufficiently high levels of metallic mercury.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined years ago that mercury chloride and methylmercury are potential human carcinogens. Inorganic mercury and methylmercury can pass from a mother’s body into breast milk and into a nursing infant. The nervous system is the primary target organ for elemental and methylmercury. It can accumulate in an unborn baby’s blood to concentrations higher than in the mother. Exposure to mercury vapor causes lung, stomach, and intestinal damage and death due to respiratory failure in sever cases. These effects are similar to those seen in adult groups exposed to inhaled metallic mercury vapors at work.
Kidney damage is very common after exposure to toxic levels of inorganic mercury. Metallic mercury or methylmercury that enters the body can also be converted to inorganic mercury and result in kidney damage. In critical periods of development before they are born, and in the early months after birth, children and fetuses are particularly sensitive to the harmful effects of metallic mercury and methylmercury on the central nervous system and brain.
It should be clear from the above information how toxic mercury is and the side effects known. While everyone is endangered, those that pose the greatest risk are fetuses, children and the elderly. Pregnant women pass mercury to their unborn through the placenta and later through breast milk. The most susceptible occupational group is dentists and their assistants and those working at waste sites and incinerators. Since everyone is exposed through dental amalgams it only makes sense to find out what your levels are and if you are capable of elimination.
What Tests are Available
Quicksilver Scientific is the only commercial analytical testing laboratory capable of directly analyzing ethylmercury, methylmercury and inorganic mercury in one procedure at environmentally and biologically relevant amounts. Mercury speciation is an analytical testing process separating and measuring the different forms of mercury. Quicksilver Scientific holds the exclusive patent on cold vapor mercury analysis technology that is automated and scalable. Quicksilver’s method of mercury speciation analysis is an easy and cost effective solution for processing large test batch sizes.
In a single test, Quicksilver Scientific speciation analysis measures biologically available forms of mercury (methylmercury and inorganic mercury). This is why Quicksilver speciation is superior to conventional total mercury analysis. Rather than delivering an undifferentiated lump sum total, Quicksilver speciation of mercury provides useful data on the ratio of methylmercury to inorganic mercury. In addition to this, the patented Quicksilver mercury measurement process can be expanded to include rare forms of this toxic element (ethylmercury and propylmercury).
Who Benefits from the Quicksilver Scientific Mercury Speciation Test
Since mercury has great affinity for the nervous system, anyone with neurological disorders will benefit from the Quicksilver mercury speciation test. ADD/ADHD, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, epilepsy and other seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia all need to be checked for mercury poisoning. Elderly patients with any type of kidney disorder are susceptible to mercury overload or already may have been exposed. Women considering having children will benefit from being tested. Those in the dental field or in waste management who wish to maintain their health should test. Realistically, everyone should test for mercury simply because we have been exposed and need to know what our levels are and our capacity to detoxify.
What Happens After I do the Test?
Once your health care practitioner receives the results, a consultation is scheduled and a detoxification program is recommended on how to eliminate all forms of mercury. This takes time and patience. However, you will begin to see the effects. Many symptoms you have now may subside or stop all together as a result of mercury detoxification. Periodic re-testing shows your progress.