High Mercury Content
The Grassy Narrows & Islington Bands Mercury Disability Board

Poisoning Worldwide

Mercury is a heavy metal that occurs in liquid form at room temperature. Aristotle, a Greek scholar, named it quicksilver over 2000 years ago, because at room temperature it is a silver-colored liquid. Early physicians used it for medicinal purposes to treat diseases such as syphilis, and problems affecting the intestines, as well as other conditions.

Mercury poisoning was written about as early as the 15th century.  Until the mid 1800s, poisoning resulted mostly from inhaling mercury vapors. In the 1840s, other man-made chemicals were known to cause poisoning.

Some workers were especially vulnerable to this poison, or toxin. Mercury was used by mirror makers. Chemists who came into contact with it in their labs were affected. Hatters, workers who were involved in the production of felt hats in the mid-19th century, were exposed to mercury nitrate. It was used to treat fur skins, such as beaver and rabbit, to make felt hats, thus perhaps the saying, “mad as a hatter”. The children’s book, Alice in Wonderland, is said by some to refer to these victims of mercury poisoning.