What is the prevalence of mercury toxicity in the US?

Updated: Dec 31, 2020
  • Author: Adefris Adal, MD, MS; Chief Editor: Sage W Wiener, MD  more...
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Mercury toxicity can occur through exposure to mercury in its pure elemental form, as an inorganic salt, or through organic mercury compounds. Toxicity to the pure elemental form stems largely from inhalation of mercury vapor as a result of occupational exposure, for example melting mercury-containing dental amalgam. Another common route is vacuuming spilled mercury from a broken thermometer. Exposure to the inorganic salts and organic compounds stems largely from ingestion. [18]

Industrial emissions of mercury have polluted fresh and coastal waters, leading to contamination of fish. This has raised public concerns about long-term exposure to mercury through the consumption of wild fish. [19]

In 2019 the AAPCC reported 790 single exposures to elemental mercury (excluding thermometers). Of these exposures, 55 were in children aged 5 years or younger and 437 were in adults aged 20 years or older. There were 1030 exposures to mercury-containing thermometers, 179 of them in children aged 5 years or younger and 379 in adults aged 20 years and older. There were 517 other mercury exposures, 37 in children aged 5 years or younger and 317 in adults aged 20 years and older. [14]

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