Mercury represents a highly toxic natural element that can be found in the ground and water as well as being airborne. The material is well-known for being extremely harmful to the body, causing a number of effects ranging from birth defects to outright blood poisoning, depending on the amount of exposure involved and how it entered a person. Given how powerful mercury can be in terms of negative effects, many assume the material is generally kept out of the hands of everyday living. In fact, exposure to mercury is far more possible than people think.
One of the most common ways people can find themselves ingesting mercury is through seafood. Methylmercury is commonly found in differing levels in shellfish and fish harvested from the sea, especially in zones known for commercial pollution. The amounts ingested in one sitting are very small, but over time a regular diet of fish can build up an ingestion of mercury that results in all sorts of effects on people involved. It’s hard to avoid as well. Methylmercury is a byproduct of bacteria eating mercury and plankton eat the bacteria. Eventually, the poison travels up the food chain to seafood harvested by people.
Another exposure risk occurs in industrial settings where workers are exposed to the vaporization of chemicals. Within many chemicals mercury is component. When those chemicals or materials are heating the mercury becomes airborne as a gas which can then be inhaled by workers in the area without safety measures.
Mercury exposure in everyday life occurs to just about everyone. Where it becomes a major problem is when that exposure is significant or builds up over time. Developing fetuses inside the womb will be affected, showing birth defect signs and mental defects as a result. Often this occurs through mercury-tainted food mentioned above. Acute exposure through touch or ingestion will cause internal poisoning to a victim via kidney failure as well as intestinal problems. Inhalation over time can cause cognitive deficiencies as well as motor function problems. This is usually the case with prolonged exposure, such as working in mercury-laden factories.
Solutions and Prevention
Avoiding mercury involves multiple steps and changes. Pregnant women should generally avoid eating seafood altogether. Workers should insist on using significant safety protection or avoid working in areas with vaporized chemicals. At home, people should avoid using products with mercury as much as possible, and wash hands regularly to avoid any chance of touching the material through suspect products. Basic cell batteries often used in toys and small appliances are a common source. Old-style dental fillings are another. Even some facial makeup products have mercury in them and should be avoided.
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