Today when people think of heavy metal, they think of numerous rock bands such as Guns n’ Roses, AC/DC, or Led Zepplin. However the more health conscious person should think of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury. The most common metal to come in contact with humans, with possibly the most serious effects, is mercury. Mercury is a natural substance that can be found in the environment. It is the only common metal that is a liquid at room temperature, but at high temperatures it can evaporate into a colourless, odourless vapour. For years, this type of mercury has been used in products such as thermometers, switches, batteries, jewellery, cosmetics and even dental fillings (VDH 2004). Although
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Although the short-term or long-term effects of mercury on the digestive system are not well known due to the method of the mercury being brought into the system, symptoms presumable include sores of the mouth, inflammation and diarrhea. The symptoms are only presumed because of the limited number of cases where the employees have actually swallowed and digested mercury in its liquid form, however these symptoms have occurred to people who have inhaled mercury in its gaseous state (VDH 2004).
Much like the effects of short-term exposure to mercury, the long-term effects of mercury exposure are generally caused by inhalation exposure. However, liquid mercury as well as vapour is also absorbed through the skin in small amounts. These effects following absorption through the skin are usually similar to those reported of long-term inhalation exposure (CCOHS1998). The long-term inhalation of mercury affects the same systems in the body, only with more dramatic effects.
The long-term effects on the nervous system include muscle coordination, mood, behaviour, memory, and feeling and nerve conduction. These effects were reported in employees with moderately high or high exposure to mercury in occupations involving the use of mercury. The nervous system effects of mercury are sometimes