Neurological Effects of Mercury Exposure
B. Windham (Ed.)
Toxic metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, etc. have been documented to be neurotoxic, according to U.S. Government agencies cause adverse health effects and learning disabilities to millions in the U.S. each year, especially children and the elderly(160,105,27d).The health effects of toxic metals are synergistic with other toxic exposures such as pesticides, endocrine disrupting substances like organochlorine compounds and PCBs, etc. There are also synergistic effects with the various types of parasites, bacteria, viruses to which people have common exposures and commonly become infected when the immune system is weakened by toxic exposures (485,469b,470,581). Studies have found considerable genetic variability in susceptibility to toxic metals as well. While there is considerable commonality to the health effects commonly caused by these toxic metals, and effects are cumulative and synergistic in many cases, this paper will concentrate on the health effects of elemental mercury from amalgam fillings.
Mercury amalgam dental fillings have been found to be the largest source of both inorganic and methyl mercury in most who have several amalgam fillings. Those with several amalgam fillings have been found by hundreds of thousands of medical lab tests to have mercury exposure levels approximately 10 times the average level of those without amalgam, and saliva and excretion levels decline 90% after amalgam replacement.
Clinical experience has identified some of the factors that cause mercury to accumulate in various areas of the body(581). These include past physical trauma to an area, inflammation, food allergies, Geopathic Stress, scars and dental trauma, structural abnormalities, biochemical deficiencies such as zinc, environmental toxicity, and unresolved psychological problems.
II. Neurological Effects of Mercury and Toxic Metals
have found that mercury is neurotoxic(kills or damages brain cells and nerve
291,295,327,329,301,303,305,395/39,262, 274,303); generates high levels of reactive oxygen species(
While there have been large increases of most neurological and immune
conditions among adults over the last 2 decades(574), the incidence of
neurotoxic or immune reactive conditions
in infants such as autism,
schizophrenia, ADD, dyslexia, learning disabilities,
etc. have been increasing especially
rapidly in recent years (2,409,441,476).
A report by the National Research Council found that 50% of all
pregnancies in the U.S. were resulting in prenatal or postnatal mortality,
significant birth defects, developmental neurological or immune conditions, or
otherwise chronically unhealthy babies(441). Exposure to toxic chemicals or environmental
factors appear to be a factor in as much as 28 percent of the 4 million children
born each year(441,160), with 1 in 6 having one of the neurological conditions
previously listed. EPA estimates that over 3 million of these are related to lead or
mercury toxicity (2,125,276,409), with
approximately 25% of
A large epidemiological study, NHANES III, by the National Institute for Health has found a significant correlation between several chronic health conditions and having more than average number of dental amalgam surfaces. The conditions in which the number of dental amalgam surfaces were most highly correlated with disease incidence were MS, epilepsy, migraines, mental disorders, diseases of the nervous system, disorders of the thyroid gland, cancer, and infectious diseases (543). Other conditions where incidence was significantly correlated with having more than the average number of amalgam surfaces are: diseases of the male and female genital tracts, Disorders of the peripheral nervous system, Diseases of the respiratory system, and Diseases of the genitourinary system (543).
There has been a huge increase in the incidence of degenerative neurological conditions in virtually all Western countries over the last 2 decades(574,581). The increase in Alzheimer’s has been over 300% while the increase in Parkinson’s and other motor neuron disease has been over 50%. The primary cause appears to be increased exposures to toxic pollutants(574).
Oxidative stress and reactive oxygen species(
Programmed cell death(apoptosis)
is documented to be a major factor in degenerative neurological conditions like
ALS, Alzheimer’s, MS, Parkinson’s, etc.
Some of the factors documented to be involved in apoptosis of neurons
and immune cells include inducement of the inflammatory cytokine Tumor Necrosis
Factor-alpha(TNFa) (126), reactive oxygen species and oxidative
stress(13,43b,56a,296b), reduced glutathione levels(56,126a,111a), inhibition
of protein kinase C(43), nitric oxide and peroxynitrite toxicity(43a),
excitotoxicity (490,496,521,524), excess free cysteine levels(56d,111a),excess
glutamate toxicity(13b, 416e), excess dopamine toxicity (56d,13a), beta-amyloid
generation(462), increased calcium influx toxicity
TNFa(tumor necrosis factor-alpha) is a
cytokine that controls a wide range of immune cell response in mammals,
including cell death(apoptosis). This
process is involved in inflammatory and degenerative neurological conditions
Another neurological effect of
mercury that occurs at very low levels is inhibition of nerve growth factors,
for which deficiencies result in nerve degeneration. Mercury vapor is lipid soluble and has an
affinity for red blood cells and
Mercury can cause depression and mood disorders through increased neurological problems related to lowered levels of neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, noreprenephrine, and acetylcholinesterase (35,38,104,107,125,140,141,175,251,254,275,288,290,296,297,305,365,367, 372,381,432,451,465,412,581,582). In such cases mercury has been found to accumulate in and affect the function of the brain limbic system(581). The reduced neurotransmitter levels in those with amalgam appear to be a factor encouraging smoking since nicotine increases these neurotransmitter levels and a much higher percentage of those with amalgam smoke than in those without amalgam(141).
Some of the effect on depression is related to mercury’s effect of reducing the level of posterior pituitary hormone(oxytocin). Low levels of pituitary function are associated with depression and suicidal thoughts, and appear to be a major factor in suicide of teenagers and other vulnerable groups. The pituitary glands of a group of dentists had 800 times more mercury than controls(99). This may explain why dentists have much higher levels of emotional problems, depression, suicide,etc(Section VIII.). Amalgam fillings, nickel and gold crowns are major factors in reducing pituitary function(35,50,369,etc.). Supplementary oxytocin extract has been found to alleviate many of these mood problems(35), along with replacement of metals in the mouth(Section VI.). The normalization of pituitary function also often normalizes menstrual cycle problems, endometriosis, and increases fertility(35,9).
Animal studies of developmental effects of mercury on the brain have found significant effects at extremely low exposure levels, levels commonly seen in those with amalgam fillings or in dental staff working with amalgam. One study(305) found prenatal mercury vapor exposure decreased NGF concentration in newborn rat’s forebrain at 4 parts per billion(ppb) tissue concentration. Another study(175) found general toxicity effects at 1 micromole(uM) levels in immature cell cultures, increased immunoreactivity for glial fibrillary protein at 1 nanamole (0.2 ppb) concentration, and microglial response at even lower levels. Other animal studies on rodents and monkeys have found brain cellular migration disturbances, behavioral changes, along with reduced learning and adaption capacity after low levels of mercury vapor exposure (149,175,210,264,287,305). The exposure levels in these studies are seen in the fetus and newborn babies of mother’s with amalgam fillings or who had work involving amalgam during pregnancy(61). Mercury vapor has been found to primarily affect the central nervous system, while methyl mercury primarily affects the peripheral nervous system(175c).
Long term occupational exposure to low levels of mercury can induce slight cognitive deficits, lability, fatigue, decreased stress tolerance, etc. Higher levels have been found to cause more serious neurological problems (119,128,160,285,457,etc.). Other studies(285bg,395) found that workers exposed at high levels at least 20 years previous(urine peak levels above 600 ug/L demonstrated significantly decreased strength, decreased coordination, increased tremor, paresthesia, decreased sensation, polyneuropathy, etc. Significant correlations between increasing urine mercury concentrations and prolonged motor and sensory distal latencies were established(285g). Elemental mercury can affect both motor and sensory peripheral nerve conduction and the degree of involvement is related to time‑integrated urine mercury concentrations. Thirty percent of dentists with more than average exposure were found to have neuropathies and visuographic dysfunction compared to none in the control group(395d). Other studies have also found a connection between mercury with peripheral neuropathy and paresthesia (190,449,502,71bdef,395,581,582). Chronic mercury exposure has been found to be a significant factor in many neurological conditions including Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Parkinson’s, MS, etc. Neurological problems are among the most common and serious problems caused by mercury and include memory loss, moodiness, depression, anger and sudden bursts of anger/rage/violence
(290,465,480-483,487,534), self-effacement, suicidal thoughts, lack of strength/force to resolve doubts or resist obsessions or compulsions, etc. Many studies of patients with major neurological diseases have found evidence amalgam fillings may play a major role in development of conditions such as depression (94,107,109,212,222,271,294,212,229, 233,285e,317,320,322,372,374,453,581,582), schizophrenia (34,35,295,465,560), bipolar disorder (294), memory problems (212,222,581,582), and other more serious neurological diseases such as MS, ALS, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. A large U.S. CDC study found that those with more amalgam fillings have significantly more chronic health problems, especially neurological problems and cancer(543).
Some factors that have been documented in depression are low serotonin levels, abnormal glucose tolerance(hypoglycemia), and low folate levels(480-83), which mercury has also been found to be a cause of. Occupational exposure to mercury has been documented to cause depression and anxiety(534). One mechanism by which mercury has been found to be a factor in aggressiveness and violence is its documented inhibition of the brain neurotransmitter acetylcholinesterase (175,251c,305,451,465,254). Low serotonin levels and/or hypoglycemia have also been found in the majority of those with impulsive and violent behavior(481,482).
Numerous studies have found long term chronic
low doses of mercury cause neurological, memory, behavior, sleep, hearing
loss(566), and mood problems
282,290,453,581,582). Neurological effects have been documented at very low
levels of exposure (urine Hg< 4 ug/L), levels commonly received by those
with amalgam fillings(290). One of the studies at a
Other studies(285c) found that mercury at levels below the current occupational safety limit causes adverse effects on memory at very low exposure levels. More studies found that long term exposure causes increased micro nuclei in lymphocytes and significantly increased IgE levels at exposures below current safety levels(128), as well as maternal exposure being linked to mental retardation(110). Very high levels of mercury are found in brain memory areas such as the cerebral cortex and hippocampus of patients with diseases with memory related symptoms (158,34,207,etc.} Mercury has been found to cause memory loss by inactivating enzymes necessary for brain cell energy production and proper assembly of the protein tubulin into microtubules(258). DMSO has been found to have some capability to repair such damage(581).
III. Treatment of Toxic Related Neurological Conditions
The mechanisms by which mercury causes neurological conditions have been documented, but it has also been found that people with such conditions commonly recover or have significant improvement after amalgam replacement- from conditions including:
disorders (8,35,94,212,222,322,440,453,552,557,581,582), schizophrenia and
bipolar disorder(294,295,465,560,581,34,35), depression
insomnia (35,62,94,212,222,233ag,271,317,322,376,525c,581,582), anger(212,233,102,557,35,62),
anxiety & mental confusion
(62,94,212,222,229,233abcfgh,271,317,322,440,453,525c,532,551,557, 581,35,57), neuropathy/paresthesia
headaches/migraines (5,8,34,35,47f,62,95,185,212ab,222,229, 233abdefgh,271,317,322,349, 354,115,376,440,453, 523,525,532,537,538, 552,556,581,582,583), epilepsy (5,35,309,229,386e,557,581), ataxia/balance problems (250c,581,582);
Lipoic acid has been found to have protective effects against cerebral ischemic-reperfusion, excitotoxic amino acid(glutamate) brain injury, mitochondrial dysfunction, diabetic neuropathy(572,550). Other antioxidants such as carnosine (495a), Coenzyme Q10,Vitamins C & E, ginkgo biloba, pycnogenol and selenium have also been found protective against degenerative neurological conditions and ginkgo biloba and 5-HTP for ADHD(176,494,495e, 444,237,550,20). Several doctors have found thiamin(B3), Vit B6, inositol, and folic acid supplementation to alleviate peripheral neuropathies, pain, tinnitus, and other neurological conditions(502). Several studies have documented that lipoic acid(an antioxidant and chelator) resulted in improvement in the majority of diabetes cases it was used for, by improving glucose metabolism, increasing insulin sensitivity, and reducing nerve damage(including in diabetic neuropathy)(501e,550). Properly formulated nutritional treatments have been found to be effective in treating ADHD and depression(522). Hormonal imbalances such as from taking birth control pills can be a factor in causing B vitamin deficiencies such as B6 and Riboflavin which can be a factor in migraine headaches. Supplementation has been found to be helpful in such circumstances (20).
One chelation expert(581) suggests when chelating with DMPS supplementation with a good multivitamin/multimineral plus Vit E(400 IU), selenium(200-400 ug), and Vit C(=>2 grams or Vit C IV) (581). He also finds chlorella beneficial for most. He has found that other factors that reduce detoxification include:
Low sodium, calcium, potassium, or selenium levels
Low protein in diet or low stomach acid
Low serum cholesterol (carrier)
Low glutathione or other detox enzymes
Kidney problems or damage from mother’s amalgams
Constipation or Leaky Gut
Electromagnetic influences(scars, Geopathic Stress, EMF, RF waves)
For information and treatment of factors involved in neurological conditions other than toxic metals, see the treatment section of the individual condition review paper of interest, linked above.
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