Mercury is a heavy metal that has significant detrimental effects on humans and animal health. Behind lead and arsenic, mercury is the third most frequently encountered and most toxic heavy metal. Elemental mercury is the metal form of the element and it is present in thermometers, dental amalgams and in some paint. Inorganic mercury is referred to as mercury salt, and this form is present in cosmetics, diuretics and antiseptics. Lastly organic mercury (methylmercury) is the most toxic form of mercury and the most frequently exposed to. It is found in many foods where there is contamination by pesticides and insecticides, and in thimerosal in vaccines. In tissues over time methylmercury and elemental mercury are converted into inorganic mercury and become bound to sulfhydryl-containing (thiol) macromolecules. Mercury is toxic because it can interfere with normal metabolic regulation leading to biochemical damage. The first indication that damage is occurring is the presence of increased oxidative stress.
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