Environmental Mercury and Its Toxic Effects
Mercury exists naturally and as a man-made contaminant. The release of processed mercury can lead to a progressive increase in the amount of atmospheric mercury, which enters the atmospheric-soil-water distribution cycles where it can remain in circulation for years. Mercury poisoning is the result of exposure to mercury or mercury compounds resulting in various toxic effects depend on its chemical form and route of exposure. The major route of human exposure to methylmercury (MeHg) is largely through eating contaminated fish, seafood, and wildlife which have been exposed to mercury through ingestion of contaminated lower organisms. MeHg toxicity is associated with nervous system damage in adults and impaired neurological development in infants and children. Ingested mercury may undergo bioaccumulation leading to progressive increases in body burdens. This review addresses the systemic pathophysiology of individual organ systems associated with mercury poisoning. Mercury has profound cellular, cardiovascular, hematological, pulmonary, renal, immunological, neurological, endocrine, reproductive, and embryonic toxicological effects.