Mercury Poisoning: Definition, History, and Further Reading

Mercury poisoning is a term used to describe a condition in which an individual has been exposed to mercury in a harmful and potentially hazardous manner. The effects of mercury poisoning can be severe and can range from mild to acute, depending on the severity of the exposure. Mercury is a ubiquitous element, found naturally in the environment and in our daily lives. It has been used since ancient times and has been linked to numerous health issues, including neurological and developmental disorders.


Mercury poisoning is a result of the human body’s exposure to mercury, either through the inhalation of mercury vapor, ingestion of mercury-containing products, or dermal absorption of mercury. The most common form of mercury poisoning is known as acute or short-term mercury poisoning, which is caused by a large, sudden exposure to mercury. Chronic or long-term mercury poisoning is caused by low-level exposure to mercury over an extended period of time. Acute mercury poisoning can cause severe neurological damage and even death, while chronic mercury poisoning can lead to neurological, developmental, and renal disorders.


Mercury has been used for centuries in products and processes in various industries, such as mining, manufacturing, and medical treatments. Its use as a medicine was particularly widespread in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when it was widely prescribed for a variety of ailments. However, it was not until the early 20th century that the dangers of mercury poisoning began to be widely recognized. In the 1930s, the US government began to regulate the levels of mercury in products, and in the 1950s, they began to take further steps to reduce the risks associated with mercury exposure.

Further Reading

Brun, R. (2020). Mercury poisoning: Symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. Frontiers in Public Health, 8, 1-7.

González-Ramírez, M. T., Cervantes-Arriaga, A., & Gómez-Arroyo, S. (2017). Mercury poisoning: A review of the literature. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(2), 1-21.

Pitard, A., & Vial, T. (2003). Mercury poisoning: Historical review of a major public health issue. Clinical Toxicology, 41(2), 143-152.

Rice, D. C., & Baird, D. B. (2018). Neurotoxicity of environmental mercury exposure: An integrative review. Reviews in Environmental Health, 33(1), 1-17.

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