What is the global incidence of mercury toxicity?

Updated: Nov 05, 2018
  • Author: David A Olson, MD; Chief Editor: Tarakad S Ramachandran, MBBS, MBA, MPH, FAAN, FACP, FAHA, FRCP, FRCPC, FRS, LRCP, MRCP, MRCS  more...
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Worldwide, outbreaks of methylmercury intoxication are sporadic. Minamata Bay in Japan was involved in the first and most famous epidemic, but not the largest. In the early 1970s, one of the most severe mass poisonings in history occurred in Iraq, when nearly 95,000 tons of seed grains treated with a methylmercury-based fungicide were accidentally baked into bread for human consumption. [41] More than 6000 individuals were hospitalized, and hundreds died. Many were hospitalized for weeks before methylmercury intoxication was correctly diagnosed.

Mercury mining areas in China have also contributed to cases of methylmercury poisoning through the ingestion of rice grown in contaminated soil. [42] Small-scale gold mining in developing countries has also produced mercury toxicity. [43]

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