Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology

2018 Edition
| Editors: Jeffrey S. Kreutzer, John DeLuca, Bruce Caplan

Mercury Exposure

  • Bradley J. HuffordEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-57111-9_255


Erethism; Mad hatter syndrome; Mercury toxicity


Direct or indirect contact with inorganic or organic forms of mercury, resulting in a deleterious alteration of body structure and/or function, including illness or death.

Current Knowledge

Exposure to elemental, organic (especially methylmercury), or salt forms of mercury is noted to be neurotoxic to humans. Any form of mercury coming into contact with the central nervous system tissue leads to toxic effects. This is accomplished most easily by elemental mercury vapor that is inhaled (usually in industrial or mining settings) or methylmercury ingestion (often via eating contaminated seafood).

As with most toxic substances, fetuses, infants, and young children are notoriously more vulnerable to mercury poisoning than adults, due to their immature bodily defenses and mercury’s tendency to interfere with nervous system development. In the 1950s in Minamata, Japan, pregnant women who were exposed to significant levels of...

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References and Readings

  1. Hartman, D. (1995). Neuropsychological toxicology. New York: Plenum Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Heron, J., & Golding, J. (2004). Thimerosal exposure in infants and developmental disorders: A prospective cohort study in the United Kingdom does not support a causal association. Pediatrics, 114(3), 577–583.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Niesink, R., Jaspers, R., Kornet, L., van Ree, J., & Tilson, H. (1999). Introduction to neurobehavioral toxicology: Food and environment. New York: CRC Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NeuropsychologyRehabilitation Hospital of IndianaIndianapolisUSA