Kristin Homme, MPP, MPH, is a retired engineer turned science writer who covers environmental toxicants including mercury. Her work is available on PubMed and ResearchGate.
MERCURY: A BIOCHEMICAL TRAIN WRECK UNDERLYING MANY CHRONIC ILLNESSES
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21
Mercury exposures are ubiquitous. Poor excreters may develop retention toxicity and their stored burden may be difficult to detect with standard laboratory methods. Susceptibility involves genetics, epigenetics and total load, including synergies and stressors. Mercury toxicity manifests across multiple organ systems as a variety of interacting, nonspecific toxic effects, yielding a biochemical train wreck. Key toxic effects include: oxidative stress; impaired enzyme function; weakened barriers and structures; impaired mineral transport; and altered immune function. Perhaps most importantly, mercury, via Fenton chemistry (in which mercury displaces iron from its sulfur binding sites, e.g., in mitochondrial enzymes), initiates a cascade of oxidative stress, which depletes antioxidant defenses and liberates additional iron, thus triggering a tipping point in which damage begets more damage, making recovery difficult. Prevention is key.