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The Dangers of Mercury

The Dangers of Mercury


When is the last time you heard of mercury? Was it your high school chemistry class? For most of us, mercury is some chemical substance that we have nothing to do with and it doesn't really affect our lives. Or does it…

Mercury is used today in a wide variety of products and processes. It is used (although with less and less frequency) in batteries, in thermometers, in fluorescent lights, in vaccines (although since 2003, primarily vaccines being used in Third World countries), in dental amalgam ("silver fillings"), and in the manufacture of chlorine and caustic soda. Until the late 1980's it was often used in paints, in the manufacture of glass, and in other products.

There are no other known chemicals which affect your brain as drastically Over the past twenty years, the effects of using mercury on such a wide scale has been raising more and more concerns. Mercury is the most potent neurotoxin known to man. Meaning, there are no other known chemicals which affect your brain as drastically. And worse, mercury doesn't break down in the body, or in the environment. It just keeps accumulating. This is why periodically we see government advisories warning us not to eat certain types of fish; when mercury builds up in a given water system, the fish living in those waters become toxic.

Mercury exists in nature only as part of an ore (a type of rock made up of bonded materials), usually cinnabar, gold, or silver, and is liquid at temperatures as low as 30 degrees below zero. Its extreme sensitivity to heat is in large part why it is both so useful and so dangerous.

One of the earliest uses of mercury was in those good old-fashioned thermometers and barometers. The slightest change in temperature would cause the mercury to expand and fill up a longer line in the thermometer. By second grade, we'd all seen the "hold-the-thermometer-to-the-light-bulb-when-mom-leaves-the-room" experiment performed at least once, so we knew about this chemical property growing up.

Unfortunately, the fact that mercury expands, and eventually vaporizes so easily means that anyone who works around mercury is at high risk of breathing in mercury vapor. This includes people who work in manufacturing plants where mercury is used or produced as part of the manufacturing process. It also includes dentists and dental assistants, who are considered to be at high-risk of mercury poisoning.

There is growing evidence that people with large numbers of silver fillings are also at risk. It was once believed that mercury bonded so completely with the other metals used in dental amalgam that it would not escape from the filling. We now know this is not true, and in fact the amount of mercury vapor leaving fillings has been measured.

Multiple fillings can leak enough mercury into a person's system to cause mercury poisoning While in the average adult one or two fillings will not cause harm, having multiple fillings can leak enough mercury into a person's system to cause mercury poisoning. For women, there are special health concerns. Mercury crosses the placenta, and also passes into breast milk. And even trace amounts can cause birth defects. Mercury has been linked to regressive autism, autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, developmental delays, and a variety of physical, cognitive, and behavioral problems. It has also been linked to intensified PMS. All of which means that for a woman, especially one in her child bearing years, or for a minor, silver fillings can be a serious health hazard.

Currently, the US Congress is even considering legislation that would restrict using silver fillings on minors and pregnant or lactating women. Several countries have already passed laws prohibiting silver fillings in such cases.

Today, there is a safe, affordable alternative called white composite fillings. Many dentists and patients prefer white fillings anyway for both cosmetic reasons and for durability. Because mercury expands (remember the light bulb experiment), amalgam fillings expand and often will eventually crack the tooth they are placed in. White fillings do not expand and thus over the long term will cause fewer problems. Still, they are something you need to specifically request and if you are hoping to have more children one day, or if you are currently expecting or nursing, you should probably look into this option.

If you or your child already have mercury fillings, and you suspect mercury poisoning or would simply like to avoid any build up of mercury in the body, you can have mercury fillings removed and replaced with white composite fillings. However, in some states this is possible only if you can show a sensitivity to mercury. In any case, the safe removal of amalgam fillings is a specialty not all dentists are familiar with. Simply drilling them out will send a mega dose of mercury straight into your blood. To avoid this, you need to do your research and find a dentist who knows how to take them out without leaking mercury into your body.

Other sources of mercury are somewhat harder to avoid. For example, while some fish are generally believed to be safer choices - salmon, for example, tends to pass mercury through its system rather than storing it - the amount of mercury in the world's water systems changes with industrial and domestic waste water constantly adding. Its wise to stay informed of FDA advisories, or buy from sources that are known to be safe (in some areas you may be able to buy from fish farms).

You can also protect yourself and your family from the ill affects of mercury by boosting your immune system and nutritional intake. Any nutritional imbalance or impairment of the immune system can potentially cause your body to have a toxic reaction even to trace amounts of mercury.

There are steps we can take to protect ourselves and our families Mercury is gradually being faded out of most industries, but it will likely remain a worry for some time to come. Clean-up of waterways is slow and expensive, and more mercury continues to enter the water systems from the soil and air. But there are steps we can take to protect ourselves and our families from taking it all in.

For easy reference, listed below some of the common causes and concerns of mercury in the body.

Mercury and your Children's Health:

  • Mercury causes damage to the brain, kidneys, and other organs
  • Mercury is linked to autism, autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, developmental delays, impaired vision, emotional and behavioral problems, and other wellness issues
  • Mercury crosses the placenta and is also passed into breast milk
  • One out of twelve women of reproductive age have higher levels of mercury in their blood than the EPA guidelines state is safe
  • More than 325,000 babies born each year are affected by mercury poisoning

Mercury and Your Diet:

New studies show that eating 2-3 servings of fish per week can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Yet, mercury pollution has made fish consumption potentially risky.

  • Women who ate 3-4 servings of fish within a 30 day period had mercury at 4 times the level of women who ate no fish during that period, according to a study released by the Journal of the American Medical Association
  • Non-kosher fish such as shark and seafood, as well as tuna, contain the highest levels of mercury
  • Among kosher fish, tuna is the most contaminated
  • Best options (lowest mercury levels): haddock, salmon, cod, and sole
Chana Kroll is an alumna of Machon Chana Yeshiva for Women in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Prior to moving to New York, she taught at a boarding school/shelter for runaways and young people whose families were homeless.
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Dee April 27, 2014

Hello, just wanted to mention that amalgam fillings installed after approx 1975 have a higher copper content, which accelerates the mercury vapor "off gassing." Two fillings *is* actually enough to cause illness. I know from experience. :-) Reply

Anonymous Outerspace January 14, 2014

new law: for better or worse? And the government is passing a new law to ban incandescent light bulbs because of global warming and instead prompting us to use fluorescent light bulbs which contain mercury. Duh! if people don't recycle properly(which they never do) we will have that stuff in our landfills. How good can that be? Reply

francis levy canada March 29, 2013

mercury poisioning - multiple sclerosis So - if you look at a world map of the incidence of multiple sclerosis it appears that there is a prevelence of ms downwind from major users of coal. MS symptoms appear to be very similiar to mercury poisioning, if not identical. Of course the cycle could be burnt coal residual goes up into a cloud formation, wind direction carries it Easterly, precipitation, washes it into the ocean and mature fish pick up mercury. This postulation, I wonder if anyone has done a study. Also would turn up in new born the same high ms incidence countries. Reply

M.I. KHUHRO Sindh, Pakistan March 1, 2013

mercury use in grain storage mercury is still used in grain syorage as a protectant against stored grain pests.third world countries having porous environmental legislation are incapable to restrict/ban this deadly element. one can easily procure it from the stores of herbal medicine and to its grain for slow poisoning of himself and his family without even knowing what he is doing. Reply

Marlene Edwards Lima, Ohio October 13, 2012

Hazards of Mercury poisoning to Dental Assts. I had been a dental assistant for 30 years. It was back in the l960's and for 30 years. We didn't wear masks and handled the mercury every day. I have undiognosed muscle spasms, falls and muscle jerks. Could this be a result or side affect of Mercury poison? Multiple doctors can't diagnose me. Reply

MYOB seattle, wa June 20, 2012

Mercury Ladies:
I am a dentist and a physician and the child of two PhD chemical engineers. I am no expert on the halacha of dental fillings. I just have to remind you that as you debate the risks of mercury fillings, remember where the white composite material that is being touted as a safer alternative comes from. Same place as all plastics/composites-from petroleum distillates. When you get a white composite filling, you are in effect getting purified and chemically modified gasoline derivatives inserted in your body. So, mercury or petroleum distillates? Both serve a purpose, both have risks. and if used to excess, both will harm you. So, worry about something else. If you can afford it and can find a dentist that still does it, get gold fillings on your back teeth. I have all three types in my mouth and so does my wife (another dental provider), and my brother, a physician. Our world has bigger worries-read the news from Europe and the Arab world. Reply

Justyn Rochester, NY, USA August 20, 2011

risks of mercury in dental fillings Thank you for this informative article. I was very pleased to see you address this issue.

For those interested in reading more on this topic, Dr Mercola has many documented articles from scientists and from drs on cutting edge health issues including the risks of mercury.

If you go to “mercola dot com” and do a search for "mercury in dental fillings" you will find a long list of relevant articles.

You can also do a search just on "mercury” at “mercola dot com” and will find many articles on general mercury risks (including vaccinations, fish, various other products, etc). Reply

Anonymous Tucson, AZ September 17, 2010

Vaccines "preserved" with Mercury How can one who is required annually to receive a flu vaccine, avoid this toxin altogether, and thereby avoid the vaccine? Can we claim religious rights, *especially* now that the standard flu vaccine contains also the H1N1 components? Are any of the ingredients anathema to our issues of holiness (let alone our longterm health)? Reply

Anonymous Eagleq, ID July 25, 2008

mercury Why could my brothers and I play with the little glob of mercury 50 years ago and now it is dangerous? I kind of think we are being had, once again. Reply

yonason Tampa, FL/USA July 23, 2008

MERCURY SPILL HAZARD Christie Thomason, since this is an issue which could incur liability if one is wrong, so I suggest you pursue the matter with your local POISON CONTROL CENTER. For your background information, only, cut and past the following title -- RECOMMENDED MERCURY SPILL CLEANUP PROCEDURE FOR FLUORESCENT LAMP BREAKAGE -- into Google or other search engine. The first (when I did it) was a PDF document put out by the State of New Hampshire. But, and this is important, do not rely on internet sources alone, especially if you have no experience in handling hazardous waste.


Christie Thomason Dearborn, MI July 12, 2008

energy saving light balbs My new kitten just broke an energy saving light balb and It contains mercury. I can't vaccume it away. How much danger do these light balbs pose to my family and pet? Reply

Chana Kroll June 4, 2007

Sources for Silver Dental Fillings --World Health Organization
--Boyd Haley, Professor and Chair of Chemistry at the University of Kentucky(
--Swedish Dental Material Comission
--State of California's official site on Hazardous Waste Management
--Numerous medical, scientific and congressional reports

Anonymous Baltimore, U.S. June 4, 2007

I spoke about your article to my dentist who mentioned that there is no evidence of a problem with silver fillings. Could you please reveal sources of your information so that I could have some proof for this point of view. Thank you very much. Reply

Chana Kroll Beitar, Israel April 24, 2007


thank you for bringing up that point- I really should have included it in the article. Definitely any steps we can take to keep mercury out of our soil and water (as in not buying mercury containing products which will eventualy leak mercury into the ecosystem after disposal) will definitely help us protect our health. I believe people are making that argument in response to the lightbulb bill in CA. Reply

yonason April 20, 2007

compact fluorescent lightbulbs Another potential major source of Mercury pollution is the fluorescent light bulb. They all contain Mercury, and improper disposal will result in accumulation in the environment which could pose real problems, if it hasn't already. And that includes those compact fluorescent bulbs that California is trying to mandate as replacements for incandescents which they want to outlaw. Reply

Jampa Willliams West Hartford, CT April 18, 2007

Mercury Article Thank you so much, Ms. Kroll, for this very important article on mercury. Recently, I requested that my son's dentist not use mercury fillings, and he responded with a distinct lack of appreciation for this request. However, I insisted that the non-mercury type of filling be used, and I am going to put a letter in my son's dental file with this instruction for any future fillings. I believe it is possible that, in the case of our dental office, mercury continues to be used because so many patients, including ourselves, have state insurance and not private insurance, and the old mercury fillings might be cheaper. Very, very few dentists in our area accept state insurance - a circumstance I find quite appalling - and so there are few if any alternatives for families if they have preferences that are not met. I am thus very grateful for the information and support I have found in this article. It will help me insist on the very healthiest options for my son. Thank you again. Reply

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