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May 8, 1915


JAMA. 1915;LXIV(19):1586-1587. doi:10.1001/jama.1915.02570450048023

The importance of mercury as a cause of chronic mercurial poisoning has decreased somewhat in recent decades, owing to a better appreciation of its dangers and to changes in the industrial processes in which it was formerly widely applied. The chief industries in which this poisoning is now seen are mercury mining and smelting, the manufacture of thermometers, barometers and other apparatus of which mercury forms an essential part, chemical plants, and the manufacture of felt hats, in which nitrate of mercury is used at certain stages of the treatment of the felt. Chronic poisoning from the medicinal use of mercury is extremely infrequent at present; and the evidence of ptyalism commonly serves as a warning to withdraw the drug before the more extreme types of symptoms manifest themselves.

There is a peculiarly insidious feature to the industrial danger of mercury in that this element can, without question, enter the