Keeping Employees and Customers Safe from Mercury Poisoning

Mercury poisoning is a known risk among people who eat certain types of fish or get amalgam fillings, but did you know there is also a risk for certain workers? Mercury poisoning is a condition caused by poisoning of mercury compounds, which is a type of metal. In high doses, it can be toxic and harmful to your health. Whether you are around products that contain mercury or you run a business that cooks shark, you need to be aware of the risks and preventative measures.

Where Do You Get Mercury Poisoning?

Mercury poisoning is a risk in a few different occasions. The first risk is in the fish you eat. Many varieties of fish have mercury, but in small doses it isn’t a problem. The fish you need to be concerned about has high amounts of mercury and includes mackerel, shark, and swordfish. You can also get mercury poisoning from amalgam fillings, as they are made with this metal, as well as some products that are made with certain mercury compounds. Mercury poisoning is not from general contact with mercury, but high amounts of it.

What Are the Symptoms?

The signs and symptoms of mercury poisoning depend on the type of mercury. If it was from elemental mercury, which is typically in its vaporized form, symptoms might include decreased cognitive function, tremors, muscle twitching, insomnia, headaches, abnormal sensations, muscle atrophy, or muscle weakness. Very high amounts of elemental mercury can cause respiratory failure, kidney malfunction, or death. Organic mercury, which is usually the type of mercury that is ingested, shows signs like muscle weakness, impairments of hearing or speech, loss of coordination, vision impairment, and stinging in the mouth or extremities.

How Can it be Prevented?

The key to preventing mercury poisoning depends on the type of risks you have in your occupation. Obviously, if you run a restaurant that sells seafood, this is your biggest risk. It is not only a risk to your cooks, but to your customers eating that fish. Try to sell fish with low amounts of mercury and avoid high-mercury fish like king mackerel, tilefish, shark, and swordfish. If you insist on selling them, consider posing a warning on the menu.

If you use any types of products that contain mercury, dispose of them properly. These products may include certain thermometers or fluorescent light bulbs. It is always a good idea to replace light bulbs with safer, more energy-efficient LED light bulbs.

Items with mercury you still need to use should have a warning on them and be packaged and stored so carefully so they do not break. If any mercury spills, do not vacuum it up, as this could cause it to convert to vapour and lead to accidental inhaling of it.

Be sure to protect your business just in case mercury poisoning becomes an issue, with adequate business insurance and workers’ compensation insurance.