When you think of mercury, what springs to mind? Is it the entrancing drop of shimmery liquid that flows from a broken thermometer, giving the metal the name quicksilver? Or is it the warnings of overconsumption of fish and bioaccumulation? Or perhaps it’s the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland? The story of mercury, in both its biology as well as its history, is vast and varied, and in this episode, we attempt to piece together a picture of this heavy metal. We first delve into the pathophysiological effects of the different forms of mercury exposure on the body, and then take a narrow tour of the metal’s history, focusing primarily on Minamata disease, before wrapping it all up with a look at just how widespread mercury contamination is today. Although the relationship between humans and mercury is as old as history itself, there are still so many lessons to be learned from it, especially “what is the true cost of progress?”.
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