Mercury is often mentioned as a toxic element that humans have been getting increased exposure to in recent decades. Although mercury is a naturally occurring element that is released into our environment from volcanic eruptions, about two-thirds of the mercury we are exposed to is entering our biosphere from man-made sources including industrial plants, coal burning and incinerators. Coal fired power plants release about 75 tons of mercury into the atmosphere each year. Historically, the chlor-alkali industry is one of the largest industries that used mercury in the processing of sodium chloride brine to chlorine gas, hydrogen gas and sodium hydroxide. Most would be surprised to know how pervasive these chemicals are and how they are used in the food industry, aluminum and textile production, soap and other cleaning agents as well as water treatment and effluent control.
Hydrogen is used in the production of hydrogen peroxide and ammonia. Chlorine is used in making solar panels and microchips, and 85% of all pharmaceuticals contain chlorinated compounds or make use of them in the synthesis of the active substances. Because of that, mercury has been found in all these products including high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is often used today as a less expensive sweetener than sugar cane. In foods with HFCS about 50% of the samples contained mercury, and in drinks with HFCS, about a third tested had mercury.
The Types of Mercury
The average person is probably aware that mercury can be found in fish, dental fillings and vaccines. The type of mercury found in each is different and that can be significant too.
Organic mercury or Methylmercury (MeHg) is an extremely toxic form of mercury. It is a potent neurotoxin which means it harms the brain, our memory, and nervous system, causes developmental delays in children, and has been shown to cross the placenta and the blood-brain barrier. Per the world health organization, (W.H.O.), in a fetal brain mercury impedes nerve cell division, and migration, binds with microtubules required for neuronal development, and binds and distorts DNA and RNA. This could result in problems such as seizures, delayed development, language disorders and deficits in fine motor function. It could also be a reason for high blood pressure. Alarmingly, it has been estimated that between 200,000 and 400,000 children in the U.S. are born each year (about 6%) with pre-natal exposure to methylmercury sufficient to put them at risk of neurological impairment. The main source of methylmercury is fish.
Ethylmercury (EtHg) is another organic form of mercury. It can be found in synthetic organomercurials such as flu vaccines in the form of Thimerosal. Thimerosal is also found in eye drops and other antiseptics. Today most childhood vaccinations have had the Thimerosal taken out, but unfortunately it has been replaced with aluminum which has its own deleterious effects.
Inorganic mercury or mercuric ion (HgII) is a highly toxic salt from the oxidation or the corrosion of dental amalgams that contain elemental mercury (Hg). HgII is the only form of mercury that doesn’t cross the blood brain barrier, but it does cross the placental barrier. HgII accumulates in the liver, kidney, and intestinal areas. Symptomatically it can cause nervousness, fatigue, and gastroenteritis. Elemental mercury vapor (Hg0) that outgasses from dental amalgams is 80% absorbed by our bodies per the World Health Organization and this does cross the blood brain barrier through inhalation.
Dr. Chris Shade says the mechanism of mercury toxicity is “inappropriate binding” Mercury has an ability to bind to cell membranes and receptor sites replacing essential elements such as cysteine, methionine, and zinc. He says “that mercury has an affinity greater than zinc by a factor of a billion times”. By this process, the great imposter dysregulates various systems in the body. It can make you hyperactive and anxious, or it can cause fatigue and depression.
Testing for Heavy Metals
There are different tests that can be done to measure mercury exposure and each has their shortcomings.
The use of hair testing ($60.00) for heavy metals has been around for many years and is a very good way of testing for chronic mercury exposure of methylmercury in fish but unfortunately not the inorganic or elemental form. Hair follicles concentrate the exposure to heavy metals by 200-300 times, measuring exposure in ppb or parts per billion, resulting in an economical and sensitive test.
Traditional blood testing is only going to find mercury toxicity in an acute poisoning of either the methylmercury, ethylmercury or elemental forms of mercury. A Blood or a Urine Porphyrin Test is a newer test that could show mercury or other heavy metal toxicity in situations where a chronic exposure is suspected.
Inorganic mercury from pharmaceuticals, or those exposed through inhalation such as miners, or those working in smelters might want to consider urinary testing. However, with urinary testing the mercury won’t show up if the person is a poor detoxifier. Sometimes the sickest people are the ones where it is most difficult to pinpoint mercury or heavy metal toxicity.
A quick check for heavy metals
There is a dithizone reagent test that I have in my office for $25.00 that tests liquids for the presence of heavy metal ions. It isn’t specific for mercury but it is a simple screen that could be used for your water or checking yourself through your urine. You stop supplements for two days before doing the test and mix the reagent with your urine in a test tube to assess a color change from the normal color which is a green layer above the urine. The pictures below are of my own results. I was normal because the color didn’t change. The test comes with directions and a color chart that would indicate a positive result.