Mercury Poisoning – Exposure, Symptoms & Liability

Mercury is a naturally-occurring element found in the earth’s crust and used in various products on the market. Exposure to mercury is toxic for humans and can cause a host of serious health complications. If you suspect mercury poisoning, seek medical attention immediately for diagnosis and treatment. And in some cases, victims of mercury poisoning may have grounds for a liability claim.

Forms of Mercury

Mercury is found in three forms, all of which can be toxic.

  • Elemental mercury – Elemental mercury is that which is in liquid form. It is also referred to as quicksilver. When liquid mercury is released from its source and evaporates, it releases an invisible, odorless toxic vapor that can be poisonous when inhaled.
  • Inorganic mercury – Mercury of this type includes compounds that are in powder or crystal form. It is toxic when ingested or when absorbed through skin contact.
  • Organic mercury – Organic mercury compounds such as methylmercury is found naturally in very small amounts in the body. However, over-exposure via consumption, inhalation, or skin contact causes mercury poisoning.

Types of Exposures

Mercury is found in a plentitude of sources, from some the fish you may eat to many of the cosmetics you may use. Below are just a few of the sources of exposure to mercury.

  • Batteries
  • Fungicides, antiseptics, and disinfectants
  • Cosmetics and creams
  • Preservatives used in some medicines
  • Dental fillings
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Novelty jewelry, particularly glass pendants imported from Mexico, reports the EPA
  • Fever thermometers and industrial thermometers
  • Ethnic folk medicine and religious practices
  • Fumes released when coal is burned
  • Gold mining
  • Paint (especially from older homes)
  • Antiques
  • Compact fluorescent light bulbs

There are myriad additional mercury-containing products on the market of which consumers should be aware. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cautions: “While some manufacturers have reduced or eliminated their use of mercury in consumer and commercial or industrial products, there are still many existing items in the marketplace that contain mercury. EPA encourages individuals, organizations and businesses to use non-mercury alternatives and to recycle old or unused mercury-containing products whenever possible.”

For more detailed information, you can visit the EPA’s website and view its mercury info for consumers under Mercury > Consumer and Commercial Products.

Symptoms of Mercury Poisoning

Mercury poisoning can develop immediately when exposed to a sudden large dose, or it can develop slowly through gradual exposure in smaller doses. Symptoms of poisoning depend on the type, amount, and duration of exposure.

  • Emotional instability and irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Inflammation
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Autism
  • Impaired thinking and abnormal sensations
  • Nervousness
  • Immune and behavioral dysfunctions
  • Muscle twitching, tremors, muscle weakness, and muscle atrophy
  • Kidney malfunction
  • Respiratory failure
  • Peripheral vision impairment, double vision, and blindness
  • Impaired speech and hearing
  • Seizures
  • Death

Considering a Lawsuit to Recover Damages

Workers in industries that routinely use or are exposed to mercury such as dental, medical, chemical, mining, and manufacturing industries are at high risk for mercury poisoning. Also, fetuses, infants, and people with medical issues such as lung and kidney problems are the most susceptible to the toxic effects of mercury.

If you or a loved one sustained mercury poisoning, speak with a local attorney to discuss your case after receiving proper medical care. There is chance that a lawsuit may be in order, and you may be able to obtain a settlement for your losses. Depending upon the source of your exposure, a manufacturer, business owner, employer, or care provider may be legally responsible for your damages if found negligent in some way.

For example, a pharmaceutical company may have released a batch of vaccines contaminated with mercury levels that surpassed the FDA’s legal guidelines. Or, a manufacturing plant may have leaked mercury into the ground or incinerated products or fuels with mercury, causing mercury pollution.

Many cases of mercury poisoning do, in fact, qualify victims for compensation via an injury claim. Your lawyer will be able to assess your situation, investigate the source of your exposure, and determine if your case meets all the elements necessary to prove your claim.

Talk to a Lawyer at Hiden, Rott & Oertle

To discuss your case with an injury attorney who handles mercury poisoning cases in California, contact Hiden, Rott & Oertle, LLP today at 619-296-5884 for a free consultation.