Mercury and Neurodegenerative Diseases

The connection between exposure to mercury in its various forms and degenerative diseases of the nervous system is fairly strong. Many of the symptoms of chronic low-level mercury exposure closely resemble the neurobehavioral symptoms seen in many neurodegenerative diseases. For example, the asthetic-vegetative syndrome (micromercurilism) caused by exposure to low levels of mercury, is characterized by decreased productivity, loss of memory, loss of self-confidence, depression, fatigue, and irritability, many of which symptoms are also present in the dementias. Also, the studies done on dentists exposed to mercury vapor demonstrated impaired memory recall. It is also interesting to note that one of the complications listed in the 1927 edition of Sajous's Analytic Cyclopedia of Practical Medicine under mercury poisoning is paralysis agitans, also known as Parkinson's disease.

A more recent study of nine exposed workers from a thermometer plant found symptoms of Parkinson's disease in four, which eventually cleared in all but one. They also experienced loss of muscle power, tremors, and atrophy of muscle mass, all symptoms associated with motor neuron injury, as in ALS. We know that there is a tremendous overlap in these diseases, with about 30 percent of Parkinson's patients showing signs of dementia and a smaller number having features of ALS; this is consistent with the effects of an environmental toxin.

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