This isn't the first time that someone with mental illness did something stupid with mercury either. Back in 2000, the NEJM published my all-time favorite picture of the x-ray taken after a nurse had tried to commit suicide by injecting 10 ml of mercury into one of her veins. The mercury all settled in her lungs to beautifully show off the details of the bronchial tubes.
"At follow-up at 10 months, she was healthy, with none of the renal, gastrointestinal, or neurologic effects that can result from the oxidation of mercury in the blood and consequent exposure of these organ systems. The abnormalities on the chest radiograph were still apparent. Although these abnormalities are striking, the absence of clinical toxicity in this patient illustrates the differences in the acute and chronic effects of exposure to elemental mercury, inorganic mercury (e.g., mercuric chloride), and organic mercury (e.g., dimethylmercury). Inorganic and organic mercury are much more toxic than elemental mercury; for example, a dose of 400 mg of mercury in the form of dimethylmercury is usually lethal.10 months later, still with mercury in her longs, she was healthy. As any older chemist who ever played around with mercury from a broken thermometers will tell you, if mercury was so toxic, we'd all have been dead years ago.
While these 2 examples were of someone putting the mercury into their bodies by themselves, the last example that I have is from someone whose own mother lovingly gave the mercury to her son."For 12 weeks, the patient's mother-in-law had provided him with a traditional Indian medicine containing elemental mercury and meals to which approximately 3 Tbs of elemental mercury had been added." Gee, thanks Mom! And the end result? A beautiful radiograph that highlights all the segments of the human colon:
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Very interesting. I'm going to pull some mercury out of my McLeod gauge and roll it around on my computer desk. One note of irritation about the doctor's comments: How is "elemental" mercury not "inorganic" mercury? It's certainly not organic. I think the good doctor could qualify this term as "other inorganic" mercury to distinguish the inorganic salts from the inorganic metal.
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