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High Mercury Count & Mercury Poisoning - What you need to know

Having a high mercury court, or having mercury poisoning, is a medical condition caused by over exposure to mercury. The element mercury is a metal which, at high levels, can produce toxic effects in humans and animals.

These toxic effects include damage to certain vital organs, such as the brain, lungs and kidneys. Over exposure to mercury can also result in acrodynia (pink disease), Minamata disease and Hunter-Russell syndrome.

Symptoms of mercury poisoning may include hair and weight loss, nail discoloration, headaches, insomnia, physical exhaustion, sensory impairment (vision, hearing, speech), and emotional disturbances.

How do people get mercury poisoning? People usually receive dangerous levels of mercury exposure from certain foods and consumer products. The main known sources of mercury include mercury amalgam fillings, cosmetics that contain mercury, certain vaccines, and fish.

Mercury poisoning is not as common as other toxic conditions, such as lead poisoning. However, although the FDA and other public health agencies/organizations have taken steps to limit consumer exposure to mercury, mercury poisoning and having high mercury count do still occur in the United States. Here are a few recent cases of mercury poisoning:

  • In December of 2008, actor Jeremy Piven quit a theater production of David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow due to high levels of mercury.

  • In January 2004, California Attorney General Bill Lockeyer filed suit against manufacturers of tuna, seeking an injunction and civil penalties for a failure to warn consumers that their products contain dangerous mercury compounds. Ultimately, the Superior Court of California found the Attorney General's suit preempted by federal law. Specifically, the FDA's prior regulatory actions took precedence over California's attempts to regulate tuna.

  • In 2007, a New Jersey woman, who ate almost nothing but tuna between 1999 and 2004, sued Tri-Union Seafoods, makers of Chicken-of-the Sea brand tuna. Her lawsuit sought damages from harm she allegedly sustained from consuming methylmercury and other harmful compounds. "Sorry, Charlie," said a federal appeals court to Tri-Union in 2008. Because the FDA has only issued a consumer advisory regarding mercury, as opposed to a full-blown rule or regulation about the subject, plaintiff's suit is not preempted by the FDA's "regulatory scheme." This case was sent back to the federal trial court for further litigation.

There is a good chance that the final outcome of the Tri-Union will impact on the viability of mercury poisoning cases brought by future plaintiffs.

If you suspect that you may have mercury poisoning or high mercury count, consult a medical professional. If your doctor confirms this condition, you may have some legal rights for any harm you have suffered.

Be sure to consult a competent toxic torts lawyer who has experience proving toxic torts and dealing with expert medical witnesses.

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