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February 21, 2024

Do You Know Your Mercury Exposure?

Mercury is a toxic element that is used industrially in various products, including electronic devices, paints, and fungicides. It poses a health risk primarily through exposure to mercury vapor from dental amalgams, consumption of contaminated seafood, and emissions from coal-burning power plants, among other sources. Mercury can accumulate in various organs, leading to toxicity that may manifest as neurotoxicity, teratogenicity, nephrotoxicity, immunotoxicity, and disruption of selenoprotein homeostasis.

Assessing mercury status can be challenging due to individual variability in response to exposure. Blood, urine, and hair tests are used for evaluation, but they may not correlate well with the total body burden of mercury. Symptoms of chronic low-grade mercury exposure include weakness, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and memory loss.

Dietary sources of mercury include contaminated fish and shellfish, with certain species like shark, king mackerel, tilefish, swordfish, and tuna being particularly high in mercury. It is recommended to minimize consumption of these fish and to maintain adequate selenium intake to mitigate mercury toxicity.

If mercury overload is confirmed, decontamination and chelation therapy should be initiated as early as possible to minimize toxic effects. Adequate selenium intake is also important for mitigating mercury toxicity, with Brazil nuts, seeds, mushrooms, fish, seafood, beef, and poultry being primary food sources of selenium.

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