What happens if you eat mercury?

What happens if you eat mercury? Parents often ask themselves this question when a child has bitten off the tip of a thermometer.

Answer: In liquid form, mercury is not as dangerous as in gaseous form. In addition, metal molecules are practically not absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. If you eat mercury in a small amount by accident, it will just come out naturally in 1-2 days. The real danger is mercury vapor and fragments of a thermometer in the digestive tract.

A little about mercury

To deal with the question of what will happen if you eat mercury, you should only after studying the features and toxicity of this metal. Mercury belongs to the first class of danger, that is, it is extremely toxic to humans. However, the greatest danger is its vapor, which begins to form from particles of liquid mercury at temperatures above 18 degrees.

When inhaled, toxic mercury compounds are rapidly metabolized by lung cells, entering the bloodstream and spreading throughout the body. The metal itself, although it is extremely toxic, in a liquid state of aggregation poses a much lesser threat to the body. Swallowed particles of mercury, of course, if there are very few of them, are excreted from the gastrointestinal tract in an average of several days, without causing life-threatening symptoms. They do not settle on the intestinal walls and are practically not absorbed into the blood, and therefore do not pose a serious threat.

Signs and consequences of mercury vapor poisoning: Read…

What happens if you eat mercury? List of possible symptoms

Swallowed mercury balls that have entered the body from a mercury thermometer can cause general malaise, accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • nausea, single or multiple vomiting, pain in the epigastric region, bloating, loss of appetite;
  • general weakness, decreased physical activity, drowsiness;
  • aching headache.

All these symptoms are only possible consequences of ingested mercury, since in most cases the incident will not affect the state of the body in any way, causing only panic in an emergency and atypical situation, which cannot be said about the inhalation of vapors formed from the same amount of metal. The same gram of mercury, breaking up into vapors in a room, can cause more serious consequences that affect all internal organs, cause a characteristic clinical picture of acute poisoning, and can even lead to total failure of body systems and subsequent death. This is the main feature of the toxic effect of mercury on the body: questions about what happens if you eat mercury or inhale its vapors have radically different answers!

However, it should be taken into account that the relative safety of such an incident is only permissible if a small amount of mercury (up to 1 gram) is swallowed – for example, a few drops that accidentally fell into the oral cavity from a broken thermometer or other sources containing poisonous metal. A larger amount of mercury that enters the body through the gastrointestinal tract can lead to toxic damage, which primarily affects the stomach and intestines. Also, the symptoms may be deeper and more severe if there are chronic lesions of the gastrointestinal mucosa, such as an ulcer or gastritis.

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Expert opinion:

A person can be exposed to mercury by breathing polluted air, by ingesting contaminated water or food (such as fish), or by contact with the skin.
When you ingest a small amount of metallic mercury, such as from a broken thermometer, it is practically less than 0.01 % of mercury will enter your body through the stomach or intestines, unless there are ulcerative defects or serious digestive pathologies. Even a larger amount of metallic mercury (half a tablespoon) swallowed by a person practically does not penetrate the body. However, when you inhale mercury vapor, most (about 80%) of the mercury enters your bloodstream directly from your lungs and then quickly travels to other parts of your body, including your brain and kidneys.
Mercury vapor or heavy metal salts can affect to different areas of the brain and related functions, causing different symptoms. These include personality changes (irritability, aggression, nervousness), tremors, changes in vision (narrowing of the visual field), deafness, impaired muscle coordination, loss of tactile sensations, and memory problems.

How to reduce the risk from ingested mercury

To minimize the possible risk, it is necessary to ensure that ingested mercury leaves the body as quickly as possible. To do this, you can use the following methods:

Self-induced vomiting. This method will be relevant only if no more than half an hour has passed after the incident – otherwise the particles of mercury will already have time to move into the intestines, and vomiting will lead to nothing. To stimulate vomiting, you need to drink 2-3 glasses of a weak saline solution, and then press your fingers on the root of the tongue.

Stimulation of peristalsis. If swallowed mercury has already moved into the intestines, it should be accelerated by its elimination in a natural way. To do this, it is necessary to stimulate the activity of the intestine itself with the help of laxatives or folk remedies with a laxative effect. Suitable tincture of senna, almond or castor oil, flax seeds, or any pharmacy product that does not have individual contraindications. It is also worth considering that when using laxatives, dehydration can develop, so do not forget to make up for the lack of fluid by drinking plenty of fluids.

Health care. Taking self-care measures will help reduce the likelihood of the negative effects of ingested mercury pellets, but if symptoms still make themselves felt, you should immediately consult a doctor – you may need a more serious detoxification of the body.

Even knowing what will happen if you eat mercury, you should not expose yourself to unnecessary risk and deliberately swallow the metal – such irresponsibility can end extremely sadly! There are not many situations in which mercury can be accidentally swallowed, and therefore it is easier to try to minimize their likelihood than to worry about the possible consequences.

If the thermometer breaks, call the Expert Mercury service.

Call an Expert:
8 (812) 309-13-43

Self-collection can lead to mercury vapor poisoning, and there is also a risk of swallowing mercury during collection.

For example:

– Someone sucks mercury through a straw (when collecting)
This type of collection is strictly unacceptable!
– Due to parents’ neglect, children often suffer from accidentally swallowed mercury.

Learn more about what happens if The child swallowed mercury from a thermometer, what to do?

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So based on the above. Mercury poisoning can lead to serious consequences. If you are still faced with dangerous metal, you do not need to engage in amateur activities. Trust your life and health to mercury professionals.

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