This article is about the Review Article published in today's New England Journal of Medicine titled: The Toxicology of Mercury - Current Exposures and Clinical Manifestations, Clarkson TW, Magos L, and Myers GJ.Volume 349:18, October 30, 2003.
While it may be an important first step for the NEJM to publish any data admitting that mercury is toxic the holes in this article are big enough to drive a supertanker through.
Here are a couple of the positive points:
"...amalgam fillings are the chief source of exposure to mercury vapor in the general population. Brain, blood, and urinary concentrations correlate with the number of amalgam surfaces present."
"Methyl mercury is produced by biomethylation of the inorganic mercury present in aquatic sediments. It accumulates in the aquatic food chain and reaches its highest concentrations in long-lived, predatory fish such as swordfish and shark in oceans and pike and bass in fresh water"
They also admit that mercury's primary target tissue is the brain. Hallelujah.
Here are a few of the negatives (I could spend hours on this part):
"Concentrations of mercury in ambient air and water are too low to pose a serious risk to the general population."
Too bad this is a load of you know what. According to the August 2001 issue of Atmospheric Environment, landfills are producing dimethyl mercury in levels "...higher, by a factor of 30 or 40, than concentrations of total mercury in ambient air." If you live near a landfill, and most of us do, you are getting exposed to the most toxic form of mercury. Also, wildfires, like the recent ones in Southern California, release tons of mercury, which has been locked up in the trees into the environment.
"Fish consumption has clear health benefits, and the risk posed by exposure to mercury is currently speculative."
Hey according to this a little bit or mercury won't hurt anyone!
They dismiss the thimerosal in vaccines issue. "Given the short half-life of ethyl mercury, any risks of damaging either the brain or kidneys would seem remote." - Looks like a lock-step following of the
company (pharmaceutical) line.
But what most disturbed me was the last paragraph.
"All forms of mercury have adverse effects on health at high doses. However, the evidence that exposure to very low doses of mercury from fish consumption, the receipt of dental amalgams, or thimerosal in vaccines has adverse effects is open to wide interpretation. Moreover, attempts to reduce such exposure may pose greater health risks than those hypothesized to occur from mercury."
My problem here is their apparent lack of understanding of the literature on mercury. Here are just a couple of citations that show low-dose mercury can cause health problems as well as the problems with excessive fish intake:
Low-dose Exposure to Inorganic Mercury Accelerates Disease and Mortality in Acquired Murine Lupus, Via CS, Nguyen P, Niculescu F, Papadimitiou J, Hoover D and Silbergels EK, Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol 111, Number 10, August 2003.
Mercury Levels in High-End Consumers of Fish, Hightower JM and Moore D, Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 111, Number 4, April 2003.
And this is just a smattering of the articles easily found in any medical library.
What is striking is that the argument against the low-dose mercury toxicity is the same argument they used years ago about lead toxicity. In April of this year the NEJM published an article saying no level of lead is safe in children. How many children have to suffer because of the lack of guts (and/or brains) to say that no level of mercury is safe.