Annals of Tropical Medicine and Public Health

: 2016  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 428--429

Targeting the challenge of reducing the adverse consequences of mercury on health

Saurabh RamBihariLal Shrivastava, Prateek Saurabh Shrivastava, Jegadeesh Ramasamy 
 Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
Saurabh RamBihariLal Shrivastava
Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, 3rd Floor, Ammapettai, Thiruporur–Guduvancherry Main Road, Sembakkam Post, Kancheepuram - 603 108, Tamil Nadu

How to cite this article:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Targeting the challenge of reducing the adverse consequences of mercury on health.Ann Trop Med Public Health 2016;9:428-429

How to cite this URL:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Targeting the challenge of reducing the adverse consequences of mercury on health. Ann Trop Med Public Health [serial online] 2016 [cited 2020 Feb 21 ];9:428-429
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Full Text

Dear Sir,

Mercury is a naturally occurring element which tends to have a serious impact on the humans, and the environment is global.[1] Owing to its potential to cause serious health hazards, including toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, multiple organs, and on the neurodevelopment of the child in uterus/early phase of life (impact on cognition, memory, attention, language, fine motor skills), it has been acknowledged as one of the ten most important chemicals of major public health magnitude.[2],[3]

It is very important to understand that people might be exposed to mercury either in metallic or inorganic (usually chronic occupational exposure) or organic (through methylmercury present in fish/shellfish) forms.[1],[3] Further, various types of human activities (viz., burning of coal, industrial procedures, mining, incinerators, etc.) only release mercury in the environment, which is subsequently consumed, inhaled or enters through the skin in humans.[1] However, the extent of health consequence depends on various attributes such as the type of mercury, the dosage, the age or developmental stage of the person, duration, and route of exposure.[1],[2]

Acknowledging the importance of mercury and its serious consequences on health and quality of life of people, the need of the hour is to address this issue from a broad perspective.[4],[5] This not only includes identification of at-risk population/involved production processes, but even the quantification of health effects, strengthening of the institutions for the prevention and control of exposure, the development of a legal framework, setting-up of emission limits, and measures to reduce the exposure. In addition, actions to mitigate the impact of the mercury exposure, there is a great need to ensure the strengthening of the diagnosis and care set-up, and conduct periodic sensitization sessions to enhance the knowledge of people on mercury associated risks, especially in high-risk settings.[1],[2],[5]

Further, specific targeted interventions such as advocating for adoption of clean energy sources instead of coal, encouraging the use of nonmercury methods in gold mining, eliminating the mining of mercury owing to its recycling property, phasing out nonessential mercury-containing products (like batteries, thermometers, barometers, dental amalgam, etc.), and formulating standard operative procedures for safe handling, use and disposal of remaining mercury-containing products, have been identified to reduce human exposure from different sources of mercury.[1],[5] In fact, the policymakers from Argentina have shown their commitment to ensure delivery of mercury-free health care in the nation.[6]

In addition, the World Health Organization has shown their commitment by leading the ways to promote the safe management and disposal of the healthcare waste, supporting the development of an affordable, validated, nonmercury-containing digital sphygmomanometer, and release of various guidelines for the benefit of the general population.[1],[6] Further, due to the constant emission of mercury into the environment, the presence of mercury in the food chain, and serious health after-effects, many nations have signed the Minamata Convention on mercury, which obliges the signatories to implement different steps to not only minimize emission of mercury in the air, but even phasing out of mercury-containing products.[1],[3],[5]

To conclude, there is an urgent global need to systematically plan and implement specific measures to reduce the economic, social and health impact from exposure to mercury.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


1World Health Organization. Mercury and Health – Fact Sheet No. 361; 2016. Available from: [Last accessed on 2016 Feb 22].
2Nakazawa K, Nagafuchi O, Kawakami T, Inoue T, Yokota K, Serikawa Y, et al. Human health risk assessment of mercury vapor around artisanal small-scale gold mining area, Palu city, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf 2016;124:155-62.
3Al-Saleh I, Nester M, Abduljabbar M, Al-Rouqi R, Eltabache C, Al-Rajudi T, et al. Mercury (Hg) exposure and its effects on Saudi breastfed infant's neurodevelopment. Int J Hyg Environ Health 2016;219:129-41.
4Steckling N, Plass D, Bose-O'Reilly S, Kobal AB, Krämer A, Hornberg C, et al. Disease profile and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) using the EuroQol (EQ-5D+C) questionnaire for chronic metallic mercury vapor intoxication. Health Qual Life Outcomes 2015;13:196.
5Casas IC, Gómez E, Rodríguez LM, Girón SL, Mateus JC. Toward a national plan to control health effects of mercury in Colombia. Biomedica 2015;35:30-7.
6World Health Organization. Towards Mercury-free Health Care in Argentina; 2015. Available from: [Last accessed on 2016 Feb 25].