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Harmful effects of mercury

30Mercury poisoning is metal poisoning caused by exposure to mercury or its compounds. Exposure to mercury can result in impaired neurological development. It is particularly dangerous for pregnant women as well as children.Mercury poisoning was one of the topics discussed at the state level conference on ‘Health and Environment’ organized by MMM College of Health Science, Chennai on April 18.Dr. Akshith Thimmaiah, MD, Microbiology, spoke on the health effects of mercury exposure. She said that the major sources of mercury pollution were coal-fired power plants, boilers, cement plants and steel production units.”Power plants are the largest source, contributing to almost half of all mercury emissions. Large boilers and heaters powered by coal and steel production companies are also considered to be major contributors,” she said.Dr. Thimmaiah pointed out that people are also exposed to mercury by eating fish. “In water, mercury changes its form into methylmercury. Fish absorb this mercury. We consume fish containing mercury and are exposed to the metal,” she added.According to Dr. Thimmaiah, another common exposure to mercury that can be a concern is breathing the mercury vapor.”Mercury is used to make products like thermometers, switches, and some light bulbs. Mercury exposures can occur when products that contain elemental mercury break and release mercury to the air,” Dr. Thimmaiah said.Cognitive thinking, memory and fine motor and visual spatial skills have been seen affected in children exposed to methylmercury in the womb. People have blood mercury levels below a level associated with dangerous health conditions that can include cerebral palsy, blindness and profound mental retardation.-Internet