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Mercury inhalation symptoms: Mercury Poisoning Symptoms | 7 Signs

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Go through your medicine cabinet and get rid of outdated medicines, mercury thermometers, ipecac syrup and anything else that is outdated or obsolete.

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Batteries Cause Devastating Injuries

Swallowed batteries burn through a child’s esophagus in just 2 hours, leading to surgery, months with feeding and breathing tubes, and even death. About the size of a nickel, 20 mm, 3-volt lithium coin cells are the most hazardous as they are big enough to get stuck and burn faster. Secure battery compartments and keep loose batteries away from children.

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E-Cigs and Toddlers: Beware

Electronic cigarettes (e-Cigs) are devices made to look like real cigarettes. They contain a battery, a heater, and liquid nicotine. When heated, the nicotine liquid becomes a vapor, which users inhale. Liquid nicotine products contain flavorings and something to help the product vaporize. Liquid nicotine products are very poisonous if swallowed.

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Carbon Monoxide: The Invisible Killer

It’s not an intriguing or novel hazard, just the persistent, invisible killer: carbon monoxide. Seriously, you still don’t have a carbon monoxide alarm in every sleeping area of your home? Get one! And keep fuel-burning appliances in good repair; don’t use grills or gasoline-powered tools indoors, and don’t run your car in an attached garage or place a generator close to your home.

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Do Air Fryers Cause Cancer?

Acrylamide is a chemical that can be created by cooking processes including baking, air frying, and toasting. Acrylamide is considered a probable human carcinogen based on the results of studies in laboratory animals. However, there is no substantive evidence linking dietary acrylamide consumption to cancer in humans.
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First Aid for Poisonings

Poison Control is here to help if you swallow or come in contact with something that might be poisonous. Don’t wait for symptoms to develop. Contact Poison Control immediately if you suspect a poisoning. Before you contact us, there are first aid measures that make a difference if accomplished within seconds to minutes of the poison exposure. Be sure you know about them. 

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webPOISONCONTROL Data Dashboard

The webPOISONCONTROL data analysis dashboard is the only free and publicly available online source of national (U. S.), near real-time poison exposure data. Find out more about the dashboard so you can fully explore data summaries and trends of poisonings from common substances like personal care products, cleaning substances, medicines, pesticides, plants, bites and stings, and more. 


Mercury Poisoning Symptoms | 7 Signs

Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on January 21, 2021. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Ideally, you should have no mercury in your body, but small amounts—which usually from your diet—pose no true problems. However, in some cases, mercury can accumulate in the body over time and result in chronic mercury poisoning—posing a serious threat to one’s health. So what mercury poisoning symptoms should one keep an eye out for? Keep reading to learn more about some common mercury poisoning symptoms.

What causes mercury poisoning?

How do you get mercury poisoning? Eating fish as part of one’s diet is the main way people in the United States are exposed to mercury. That’s because trace amounts of mercury are present in bodies of water—such as lakes, rivers, and oceans—and mercury levels can build up over time in different kinds of fish (as well as shellfish).

Generally speaking, fish consumption is a healthy dietary choice, but frequently eating seafoods containing relatively high amounts of mercury can put you at a greater risk of mercury poisoning. Fish like shark, swordfish, tile fish, and king mackerel are known to have a high mercury content—so not eating these kinds of fish can help limit the mercury entering your body. On the other hand, seafood like anchovies, crawfish, herring, salmon, and trout have a very low mercury content.

Fish consumption, however, isn’t the only possible source of mercury poisoning. Use of certain consumer and medical products, and specific occupations, can come with a higher risk of mercury exposure.

A select number of consumer products, such as fluorescent light bulbs and older thermometers, contain small amounts of liquid mercury. If these products accidentally break, the mercury can escape the container and evaporate—turning into a toxic (but invisible) gas. Exhaling this gas can contribute to mercury toxicity. (For more information, see the Environmental Protection Agency’s List of Common Consumer Products that Contain Mercury.)

Dental fillings, or dental amalgam (popularly known as “silver filling”), are another potential source of mercury exposure as this type of filling contains a small amount of liquid mercury. In the vast majority of cases, however, proper use of dental amalgam does not pose a serious health risk.

Exposure to mercury is also an occupational hazard in some industries. In particular, those who work in chemical processing facilities involving mercury or where electrical equipment or automative parts are made face a higher risk of mercury exposure.

The symptoms of mercury poisoning

Accumulating high levels of mercury in the body is often a slow process that can occur over a period of months or years, contributing to various downstream health effects. Similar to arsenic, iodine, and cadmium poisoning, that slow onset means that most people do not immediately realize that they are experiencing mercury poisoning. That being said, here are some symptoms that can give a clue to mercury toxicity:

1. Broad neurological symptoms

Organic mercury acts as a neurotoxin, meaning that it can drastically affect your central and peripheral nervous systems. This can lead to varying symptoms involving your cognition. This can include trouble thinking or processing thoughts, as well as sudden memory problems. The effect on the nervous system can also inhibit the senses, leading to:

  • Sudden vision changes (particularly a loss of peripheral vision)
  • Impaired speech and hearing
  • Numbness or a “pins and needles” sensation in the face and extremities



Along with the above neurological symptoms, severe or chronic mercury poisoning may also increase the risk of seizures. Seizures are characterized by sudden electrical disturbances in the brain. While many people associate seizures with sudden uncontrollable jerking in the arms and legs, it also has much subtler symptoms, including:

  • Temporary confusion
  • A sudden loss of consciousness or awareness
  • Staring spells
  • A sudden sense of fear, anxiety, déjà vu, and other cognitive and emotional symptoms

3. A loss of fine motor skills

The damage to the brain and nerves can naturally extend to problems with fine motor skills. This can manifest in a sudden lack of basic coordination, like not being able to walk or move properly. You may experience uncontrollable shaking or tremors. Your muscles may also feel weak or unsupportive, or they may ache regardless of physical activities performed.

4. Mood changes and behavioral symptoms

Mercury intoxication may contribute to some severe mood and behavioral issues. People with mercury poisoning may experience greater irritability, or they may even suffer from previously undiagnosed depression and anxiety disorders. This can go even further into sudden bursts of anger, suicidal ideation, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. These behavioral symptoms may come as a result of mercury’s damaging effects on the brain, which may fail to properly process or synthesize essential neurotransmitters linked to behavioral and mental health.

5. Kidney damage

When mercury enters the bloodstream, it may affect the brain and the kidneys. With a high enough concentration of mercury, you may suffer chronic kidney damage. Large amounts of mercury in the bloodstream can also result in massive blood loss and fluid loss from kidney failure. Often one of the characteristic diagnostic markers of acute exposure is excess protein in the urine.

6. Respiratory issues

While mercury can potentially cause health issues if ingested orally, the more prominent danger comes from inhaling its vapors as it evaporates. This allows the mercury vapor to reach the lungs, potentially contributing to severe respiratory problems. Pneumonitis, or inflammation of the lung tissue, happens almost immediately, while continued exposure to mercury vapors can lead to bronchitis and pneumonia. This can eventually progress to pulmonary edema, which is characterized by an excess amount of fluid in the lungs and potentially respiratory failure.

7. Developmental issues

Exposure to mercury can be the most damaging to developing children, infants, and fetuses. Along with many of the above symptoms, mercury can cause long-term developmental issues. Infants and children exposed to high concentrations may experience problems or delays with:

  • General cognitive abilities
  • Coordination and fine motor skills
  • Visual-spatial awareness
  • Language development

Diagnosing and treating mercury poisoning

Experiencing symptoms is often the first step to understanding that one is suffering from mercury poisoning. It’s frequently what brings a person into a healthcare provider’s office in the first place. From there, the healthcare provider may perform a variety of tests to determine if one does have mercury poisoning and to what extent: whether it can be categorized as mild, acute, or chronic exposure. Diagnosis usually involves a physical examination, blood tests, and urine tests. A healthcare provider might also ask about diet and lifestyle.

Treating mercury toxicity usually revolves around ceasing any exposure to mercury. This could mean changing one’s diet to remove mercury-rich fish and shellfish, or spending time away from a job site where there’s a high risk of mercury exposure. Ceasing exposure can sometimes be enough to help with mild symptoms. For more advanced forms of mercury poisoning, a healthcare provider may prescribe chelation therapy. This involves the use of chemicals known as chelating agents, which bind to mercury and other heavy metals, making them easier to eliminate and flush out of the body.

Related content

Heavy metal poisoning symptoms

Cadmium poisoning: causes and symptoms


1. Rice KM, Walker EM Jr, Wu M, Gillette C, Blough ER. Environmental mercury and its toxic effects. J Prev Med Public Health. 2014;47(2):74-83.

2. Basic Information about Mercury. United States Environmental Protection Agency. URL. Accessed January 21, 2021.

3. Mercury in Dental Amalgam. United States Environmental Protection Agency. URL. Accessed January 21, 2021.

4. Mercury. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed January 21, 2021.

5. Heavy metal poisoning. Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. URL. Accessed January 21, 2021.

6. Yuan Y. Methylmercury: a potential environmental risk factor contributing to epileptogenesis. Neurotoxicology. 2012;33(1):119-126.

7. Health Effects of Exposures to Mercury. United States Environmental Protection Agency. URL. Accessed January 21, 2021.

8. Mercury in Your Environment: Steps You Can Take. United States Environmental Protection Agency. URL. Accessed January 21, 2021.

Mercury poisoning: description, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

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Most of us have experienced that part of childhood, for which, perhaps, the main warning was: “Be careful with the thermometer!” Someone obeyed the adults without further questions, and someone was told in detail that the thermometer contains a very dangerous substance – mercury.

But what if a person has not noticed a broken or cracked thermometer and the symptoms of mercury poisoning have already begun to take effect?

Signs of poisoning will be the same in children and adults. Pay attention to the following symptoms:

  • Weakness all over the body;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Sore throat on swallowing;
  • Headache;
  • Metallic taste in mouth, bleeding gums;
  • Profuse salivation;
  • Edema;
  • Chill;
  • Vomiting;
  • High temperature.

All these signs can be observed after a short time from the release of mercury vapor. A couple of hours are enough for the body to begin to react to poisoning, so in no case should you delay with emergency measures and proper disinfection of the room.
Of course, many have already switched to electronic thermometers, but mercury still continues to be invisibly present in everyday life. It is used in the production of other fragile household items – energy-saving incandescent lamps.

If, nevertheless, something bad happened – after washing the body, you can always check whether there is still mercury in the body by passing the appropriate tests:

Determination of mercury in urine

Consequences of mercury poisoning from a thermometer

Disputes continue about whether it is possible to get poisoned by mercury if the thermometer breaks. Metal balls in the tank of the device are not dangerous to humans. However, the poisonous metal, being a substance of the first hazard class, instantly begins to evaporate. It is impossible to notice the first symptoms of a broken thermometer in the apartment. Mercury has no specific physical properties (color, smell, etc.).

Vapors of chemical poison spread most actively in enclosed spaces, with poorly adjusted ventilation and air conditioning systems. This means that poisoning with mercury vapor from a thermometer occurs instantly if the consequences of damage to the glass case in apartments and private houses are not eliminated in a timely manner.

Mercury from a thermometer: symptoms of poisoning

Poisonous metal enters the body through the lungs. The first signs of mercury poisoning from a thermometer can be seen after two to three hours:

  • Clouding of consciousness;
  • Pain in the head;
  • palpitations;
  • Dizziness;
  • Gastrointestinal disorder;
  • Peculiar taste in the mouth;
  • Nervous disorders;
  • Drowsiness;
  • Tremor.

As a preventive measure, you should take a shower, brush your teeth thoroughly, rinse your mouth with manganese or soda solutions, and take activated charcoal. It removes poisonous metal liquid well – you should drink more water.

If mercury poisoning from a thermometer has occurred, the symptoms will increase over time if the victim is not provided with qualified medical assistance in a timely manner.

Is it possible to get poisoned by mercury from a thermometer if the substance has not leaked out?

If it is obvious that only the tip of the thermometer is damaged, and the reservoir with metal balls is intact, then the evaporation of mercury does not occur, which means that poisoning does not occur. The damaged device must be carefully placed in a tight sealed container and handed over to a hazardous household waste collection point.

Is it possible to get mercury poisoning from a thermometer if it is removed?

Many people decide on their own to eliminate the elements of the damaged thermometer and the poisonous metal itself. Particles of the glass case do not pose a danger to humans, but mercury that has entered the body can seriously impair health.

If a thermometer breaks, many do not fear mercury poisoning and clean the floor with ordinary household cleaning products. However, the poison of the first class of danger does not cease to actively evaporate at the same time, and wet cleaning helps the substance spread around the entire perimeter of the apartment.

According to the established SanPiN standards, mercury can only be cleaned by professional demercurization (neutralization of the action of the substance). The process is a purification of air from the harmful concentration of metal vapors. Experts use gas analyzers that are able to identify the centers of the spread of poison with the utmost accuracy. Control measurements are carried out to confirm the quality of the demercuration works carried out.

Is it possible to get poisoned by mercury from a broken thermometer after a few years?

The mechanism of toxic effects of poison on the human body can be divided into two stages. Primary toxicity occurs just a few hours after contact with fumes. The secondary effects of mercury poisoning from a thermometer can take many years to manifest. Basically, this is due to the wrong technology for the elimination of metal that has entered the atmosphere. Often you can see the elements of a damaged thermometer in hard-to-reach places. Balls can roll into cracks and baseboards, get into the pile of carpets and even into the plumbing system. That is why, avoiding mercury poisoning from a thermometer is possible only with the right approach to neutralizing fumes.

Mercury vapor from a thermometer

Many people use household thermometers with liquid metal in a glass tank. However, few people know that mercury vapor from a thermometer is dangerous to humans. At first glance, it may seem that a small amount of a substance does not pose a threat to health. However, mercury poisoning from a thermometer can occur within a few hours with their active inhalation. It is important not only to eliminate the damaged device as soon as possible, but also to make sure that all sources of evaporation are completely eliminated in the room.

Mercury poisoning from a thermometer: symptoms

  • Clouding of consciousness;
  • Confused speech;
  • Vertigo;
  • Tremor;
  • Disorders of the human gastrointestinal tract;
  • Atypical taste in the mouth.

Mercury vapor poisoning from a thermometer occurs almost instantly if you do not leave the room in time. It is important not only to get out of the room where the mercury has spilled, but also to isolate it.

Mercury vapor from a thermometer: effects

It is not uncommon for people to attempt to repair a damaged thermometer on their own, and the effects of mercury poisoning from the thermometer are not immediately noticed. The substance is capable of evaporating for years (up to 30 years!) in a closed room. Poisonous metal settles on porous surfaces, it can be in the cracks of the parquet board, under the baseboards. Mercury from a thermometer may not immediately provoke symptoms of poisoning. It will take several years to determine chronic diseases resulting from inhalation of harmful fumes. The symptoms of a broken thermometer are often confused with temporary malaise. However, negligent attitude to the substance of the first class of danger is not allowed.