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Disease from Mercury



In past days persons were often medicinally subjected to mer cury until they were affected with swelling of the salivary glands, profuse salivation, and extreme depression. Under this condition the teeth are also affected, there is inflammation of the connecting membrane between the teeth and the alveolus, swelling of the gums and great pain, followed by loosening of the teeth in their sockets, and absorption both of the tooth structure and of the alveolus. The teeth are left loosened and become necrosed or killed.

These calamities have practically ceased, but others from mer cury still occur. Salts of mercury are employed in preserving furs and skins, and from these the poisonous particles of the ,metallic compound are given off. In this manner packers of furs are af fected, sometimes very seriously. A man, thirty-two years of age, so affected, was admitted into Guy's Hospital in December, 1s63, under Dr. Owen Rees. He had been engaged four years in pack ing the skins of animals that had been prepared with an acid so lution of mercury and then dried. Until the skins were perfectly dry he had nothing to do with them. His duty was to pack them afterwards. He was salivated for three months, recovered, and remained in good health until twelve months before he was ad mitted into the hospital. At that time his hand became unsteady, and he could not shave himself; a little later he lost power in his limbs when standing or moving, and afterwards began to have twitchings and tremors when in bed. Soon lie was unable to walk without assistance, and a day or two after admission into the hospital he was seized with delirium. He became paralyzed and unconscious, and died within fifteen days from the time of his admission. The mercury was detected in the organs of this man.

The workers at mercurial mines are still subject to the danger of mercurial fumes, especially when they are engaged in the out side works, preparing and subliming mercury.

The disease excited by the fumes varies according to the mode in which they are inhaled. The most frequent symptoms are sali vation and ulceration of the mouth. In some instances the stom ach is first affected; there is pain in the stomach, constriction, sleeplessness, and cough. These signs are followed by those of salivation; and in some examples, first observed by M. Ferrand, there is a red rash on the body, like the rash of scarlet fever, which lasts for several days, and leaves rheumatic pains in the limbs.

In yet another class of cases the symptoms are more purely nervous, and are those of neuralgia, accompanied or followed by muscular tremor, called, significantly, mercurial tremor. The whole muscular system is, in fact, thrown into constant feeble contractions and relaxations, over which the patient can exert no control.

In the extremest forms of disease from mercurial inhalation, the teeth become carious, and even the bones are affected. Some idea of these varied forms of disease may be obtained from the facts that have been collected at Idria in Austria. Here there are the second best mercurial mines in Europe, and over five hundred men are employed at them. The works for smelting and purify ing are about a mile from the mines, but the men change about so that all are equally engaged at the various parts of the works. In one year Dr. Hermann found that of five hundred and sixteen men thus employed; one hundred and twenty-two were attacked from the mercury, with the following forms of disease : Twenty seven had neuralgia; fourteen rheumatism; six tremors; sixteen salivation; and two caries. Hermann states that in the valley of Idria all the people, and even the domestic animals, are liable to be attacked with mercurial disease in one or other of its phases.

mercurial, affected, teeth, hospital, salivation and days