Mercury and Health
Kids are fascinated by elemental mercury because it is a shiny silver liquid and forms small beads that roll like balls. Many older adults dismiss the dangers of mercury because they remember playing with it as kids with no apparent health effects. Yet mercury is a potent nervous system toxin that is especially dangerous for fetuses, infants and young children.
The relationship between mercury and health is complex. Two factors that determine how mercury affects our health are:
Other factors that determine how mercury affects our health include how much mercury gets into the body, how often we are exposed to mercury, other chemicals we might be exposed to and a person’s individual health status.
Mercury primarily affects the nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves) and the kidney. The health effects of mercury can range from none -- to subtle -- to severe -- and even death, depending on the factors listed above. Mercury exposure is a serious concern for fetuses, infants and children because their rapidly developing nervous system is especially vulnerable. Our advice about mercury is designed to protect fetuses, infants and children, as well as adults.