What are the symptoms of mercury toxicity and what are the three best ways to limit your exposure?
Mercury exposure is an unfortunate reality in today’s industrialized world.
Mercury has many well-known health effects. To begin with, it poisons the brain and is particularly damaging to developing fetuses and young children.
Most worrisome is that no safe level has ever been found for mercury exposure.
What are some common mercury health effects?
If you suffer from excess mercury exposure, or are particularly sensitive to it, you may experience symptoms such as
- memory loss
- trouble performing complex tasks
- depressed mood
- metallic taste in your mouth
- joint or muscle pain
- gastrointestinal upset
- chest pain or palpitations
- dizziness or faint-headedness, or
If you experience a combination of these, you should discuss the symptoms with your doctor. Of course, any of these symptoms can occur with illnesses unrelated to mercury poisoning.
What can you do to limit your mercury exposure?
- Curtail your intake of fish, especially those fish at the top of the aquatic food chain that tend to have higher mercury levels in their flesh. It’s recommended that you eliminate your intake of those species at the top of the mercury scale altogether. (Or limit them to less than one serving per month.) These varieties include swordfish, tile fish, king mackerel, and shark.You should also limit your intake of fish considered to be medium high in their mercury concentration (tuna, halibut, grouper, northern pike, bass) to 4-5 ounces per week depending on your body weight. And if you’re pregnant, nursing, or might get pregnant, these numbers should be close to zero. It’s a darn shame, because in other respects these fish could be a part of a healthy diet. As an alternative, many people could benefit from a high quality fish oil supplement to get their complement of essential omega-3 fatty acids without the mercury.
- Don’t rush out to have the mercury in your dental fillings replaced. It’s unclear if there’s any health benefit to replacing your existing fillings – and the procedure could even make your situation worse by spilling more mercury into your blood stream during the extraction process. On the other hand, if you need a new filling, or need to replace an old one, you should be able to find a dentist today who doesn’t use mercury-laced amalgam.
- A third major contributor to environmental mercury is coal burning power plants. In fact, burning coal is the single largest human-generated source of toxic mercury in water, air, soil, and the ocean. As long as coal continues to supply 40-50% of our national electricity needs, there’s not too much you can do to avoid this mercury exposure.
But now you have a choice. In many states, consumers can opt to receive their electric power from a variety of suppliers. And you can also purchase renewable energy credits along with your electricity, so that you know that your utility is getting your share of its supply from renewable sources.
Limiting your exposure to mercury is one more way you can take control of your health and the health of the nation as a whole.