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Disease Profile

Mercury poisoning

Prevalence estimates on Rare Medical Network websites are calculated based on data available from numerous sources, including US and European government statistics, the NIH, Orphanet, and published epidemiologic studies. Rare disease population data is recognized to be highly variable, and based on a wide variety of source data and methodologies, so the prevalence data on this site should be assumed to be estimated and cannot be considered to be absolutely correct.

1-9 / 100 000

US Estimated

Europe Estimated

Age of onset

All ages





Autosomal dominant A pathogenic variant in only one gene copy in each cell is sufficient to cause an autosomal dominant disease.


Autosomal recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of each gene of the chromosome are needed to cause an autosomal recessive disease and observe the mutant phenotype.


dominant X-linked dominant inheritance, sometimes referred to as X-linked dominance, is a mode of genetic inheritance by which a dominant gene is carried on the X chromosome.


recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of a gene on the X chromosome cause an X-linked recessive disorder.


Mitochondrial or multigenic Mitochondrial genetic disorders can be caused by changes (mutations) in either the mitochondrial DNA or nuclear DNA that lead to dysfunction of the mitochondria and inadequate production of energy.


Multigenic or multifactor Inheritance involving many factors, of which at least one is genetic but none is of overwhelming importance, as in the causation of a disease by multiple genetic and environmental factors.


Not applicable


Other names (AKA)

Mercury toxicity


Mercury poisoning is a condition that occurs in people who are exposed to toxic levels of the element, mercury. There are three different forms of mercury that can cause health problems:

  • Elemental mercury (also known as liquid mercury or quicksilver) can be found in glass thermometers, electrical switches, dental fillings and fluorescent light bulbs. This form of mercury is generally only harmful when small droplets become airborne and are inhaled. If this occurs, signs and symptoms of poisoning may include metallic taste, vomiting, difficulty breathing, coughing, and/or swollen, bleeding gums. In severe cases, long-term brain damage, permanent lung damage and even death may occur.
  • Inorganic mercury is found in batteries, chemistry labs, and some disinfectants. This form of mercury is harmful when swallowed. Signs and symptoms of inorganic mercury poisoning vary based on the amount consumed, but may include burning in the stomach and throat; vomiting; and/or bloody diarrhea. Inorganic mercury can also affect the kidneys and brain if it enters the blood stream.
  • Organic mercury can be found in fish. Some organisms convert fumes from burning coal into organic mercury. This form of mercury is harmful if inhaled, eaten, or placed on the skin for long periods of time. Long-term exposure to organic mercury may result in skin numbness or pain; tremor; inability to walk well; blindness; double vision; memory problems; seizures; or even death.

Treatment is generally supportive and based on the signs and symptoms present in each person. Medications called chelators, which remove mercury and heavy metals from the body, are generally prescribed.[1][2][3]

Learn more

These resources provide more information about this condition or associated symptoms. The in-depth resources contain medical and scientific language that may be hard to understand. You may want to review these resources with a medical professional.

Where to Start

  • The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry is a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that provides trusted health information to prevent harmful exposures and diseases related to toxic substances. Please click on the link to access their information page on Mercury poisoning.
  • MedlinePlus was designed by the National Library of Medicine to help you research your health questions, and it provides more information about this topic.

In-Depth Information

  • Medscape Reference provides information on this topic. You may need to register to view the medical textbook, but registration is free.
  • The Monarch Initiative brings together data about this condition from humans and other species to help physicians and biomedical researchers. Monarch’s tools are designed to make it easier to compare the signs and symptoms (phenotypes) of different diseases and discover common features. This initiative is a collaboration between several academic institutions across the world and is funded by the National Institutes of Health. Visit the website to explore the biology of this condition.
  • PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Mercury poisoning. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.


  1. David A Olson, MD. Mercury Toxicity. Medscape Reference. October 2015; https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1175560-overview.
  2. Mercury. MedlinePlus. January 2014; https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002476.htm.
  3. ToxFAQsTM for Mercury. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. March 2015; https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/TF.asp?id=113&tid=24.