Mercury and its compounds are highly toxic to humans, especially to the developing nervous system. They are also harmful to ecosystems and wildlife populations. Microbial metabolism of deposited mercury can create methylmercury, which has the capacity to collect in organisms (bioaccumulate) and to concentrate up food chains (biomagnify), especially in the aquatic food chain. Methylmercury is a well documented neurotoxicant, which may in particular cause adverse effects on the developing brain. It readily passes both the placental barrier and the blood-brain barrier, therefore, exposures during pregnancy are of highest concern. It may also cause adverse effects on the cardiovascular system, thereby leading to increased mortality. Methylmercury compounds are considered possible carcinogenic to humans according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Furthermore, inhalation of elemental mercury vapour includes symptoms such as tremors, insomnia, memory loss, neuromuscular changes, and headaches. Kidney and thyroid may be affected.
For more information
- Global Mercury Assessment
- Recent UN publications
- Look at the E-learning possibilities provided by the UN.