General medical interest in mercury poisoning is primarily limited to the toxicity of the various salts of mercury. Metallic mercury is often considered to be quite inert if deposited in tissues. Toxicity, however, is apparent by most routes of administration, including inhalation, ingestion, and injection.
The inhalation of vaporized metallic mercury is the most commonly discussed form of toxicity. Chronic inhalation is primarily an industrial and laboratory hazard. The onset of symptoms is often insidious. Common symptoms include behavioral changes, insomnia, mental depression, and occasionally hallucinations. These symptoms may be associated with anemia, renal tubular damage, stomatitis, colitis, and peripheral neuritis.6,7
Acute inhalation of vaporized mercury may be rapidly lethal. Campbell reported acute pulmonary edema in an infant whose parents dropped mercury on a hot stove to watch it vaporize. In addition to pulmonary edema, degeneration of the renal convoluted tubules and necrotic changes in the gastric and duodenal
CONRAD ME, SANFORD JP, PRESTON JA. Metallic Mercury Embolization—Clinical and Experimental. AMA Arch Intern Med. 1957;100(1):59–65. doi:10.1001/archinte.1957.00260070073007
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