Mercury-Caused Endocrine Conditions Causing Widespread Adverse Health Effects, Cognitive Effects, and Fertility Effects B.Windham(Ed.)
As will be documented in this paper, the majority of the population receives significant mercury exposures and significant adverse health effects are common. Mercury has been found to be an endocrine system disrupting chemical in animals and people, disrupting function of the pituitary gland, thyroid gland, thymus gland, adrenal gland, enzyme production processes, and affecting many hormonal functions at very low levels of exposure . The main factors determining whether chronic conditions are induced by metals appear to be exposure and genetic susceptibility, which determines individuals immune sensitivity and ability to detoxify metals(405). Very low levels of exposure have been found to seriously affect large groups of individuals who are immune sensitive to toxic metals, or have an inability to detoxify metals due to such as deficient sulfoxidation or metallothionein function or other inhibited enzymatic processes related to detoxification or excretion of metals.
Common Exposures to Significant Levels of Mercury and Distribution in the Body
Most people with several amalgam fillings get daily exposure of mercury at levels well above
U.S. government health guidelines(16,19,20,49,199,211,500 ), which amount to about 4 to 8 micrograms per day(217). Mixed metals in the mouth such as amalgam dental fillings, metal crowns, and metal braces have been found to result in galvanic currents in the metals which drive the metals into the saliva and tissues of the oral cavity at high levels as well as systemically, with accumulations in the brain and hormonal glands(84,85,192,348,369,381,500). Additionally, electric and electromagnetic fields from appliances, computer monitors, power lines, etc. cause electric currents in metals in the mouth which further increase exposures to mercury and other metals(28). Mercury and nickel, which are highly neurotoxic (19,84,217,372,453,500) and immunotoxic(181,91,114ab,380b,369,383ab,405), are often found at high levels in tests of those with mixed metals in the mouth and are known to commonly cause DNA damage(296,458,114), immune reactivity (234,330,331,342,369,375,383,405,91), and hormonal effects in animals and humans(50,84,104,105,369,382,459), including related reproductive effects. Government health agencies in other countries such as Health Canada and amalgam manufacturers have warned against using amalgam near other metals(287,500), but this is still common in the U.S. and several other countries. Children typically also get high levels of exposure to highly toxic organic mercury compounds such as ethyl mercury through thimerosal, used as a preservative in vaccines (160,409,476,555), and to methyl mercury from fish(2). Warnings to ban or limit consumption of fish have been issued for 20 percent of all U.S. lakes, including all Great Lakes, as well as 7 percent of all U.S. river miles and many bays(2). Mercury (especially mercury vapor or organic mercury) rapidly crosses the blood brain barrier and is stored preferentially in the pituitary gland, thyroid gland, hypothalamus, and occipital cortex in direct proportion to the number and extent of dental amalgam surfaces (14,16,19,85,99,211,273,274,287,327,348,366,369,453), and likewise rapidly crosses the placenta and accumulates in the fetal brain and hormonal glands at levels commonly higher than the level in the mother(20,28,50,61,500). Thus mercury has a greater effect on the functions of these areas. Mercury exposures from the various sources have been found to be cumulative and synergistic along with exposures to other toxic metals(500).
Endocrine System Effects of Mercury and Related Neurological and Immune Effects
Studies have documented that mercury causes hypothyroidism(50,390,35), damage of thyroid RNA(458), autoimmune thyroiditis(369,382,91), and impairment of conversion of thyroid T4 hormone to the active T3 form(369,382,390,459,35,50d). In general immune activation from toxics such as heavy metals resulting in cytokine release and abnormalities of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis can cause changes in the brain, fatigue, and severe psychological symptoms(369,375,379-382, 385,453,118) such as profound fatigue, muscoskeletal pain, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal and neurological problems as are seen in CFS, Fibromyalgia, and autoimmune thyroiditis.. Such hypersensitivity has been found most common in those with genetic predisposition to heavy metal sensitivity (342,369,382,405), such as found more frequently in patients with HLA-DRA antigens (375,381,383). A significant portion of the population appears to fall in this category. Mercury is documented to accumulate in the gastrointestinal tract(19,20) and commonly causes "leaky gut" and poor absorption which are a factor in these conditions(21,338). Such symptoms usually improve significantly after amalgam removal(500).
Mercury can have significant effects on thyroid function even though the main hormone levels remain in the normal range, so the usual thyroid tests are not adequate in such cases. Prenatal methylmercury exposure severely affects the activity of selenoenzymes, including glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and 5-iodothyronine deiodinases(5-Di and 5'-DI) in the fetal brain, even though thyroxine(T4) levels are normal(390e). Gpx activity is severely inhibited, while 5-DI levels are decreased and 5'-DI increased in the fetal brain, similar to hypothyroidism. Thus normal thyroid tests will not pick up this condition.
Mercury reduces the bloods ability to transport oxygen to fetus and transport of essential nutrients including amino acids, glucose, magnesium, zinc and Vit B12 (43,96,198,263,264,338,339,347,427); depresses enzyme isocitric dehydrogenase (ICD) in fetus, causes reduced iodine uptake, autoimmune thyroiditis, & hypothyroidism. (50,91,212,222,369,382,459,35). According to survey tests, 8 to 10 % of untreated women were found to have thyroid imbalances so the actual level of hypothyroidism is higher than commonly recognized(508). Even larger percentages of women had elevated levels of antithyroglobulin(anti-TG) or antithyroid peroxidase antibody(anti-TP). Studies indicate that slight imbalances (subclinical) of thyroid hormones in expectant mothers can cause permanent neuropsychiatric damage in the developing fetus(509). Low first trimester levels of free T4 and positive levels of anti-TP antibodies in the mother during pregnancy have been found to result significantly reduces IQs(509a-e) and causes psychomotor deficits(509f). Hypothyroidism is a well documented cause of mental retardation(511f). Women with the highest levels of thyroid-stimulating-hormone(TSH) and lowest free levels of thyroxine 17 weeks into their pregnancies were significantly more likely to have children who tested at least one standard deviation below normal on an IQ test taken at age 8(509a). Based on study findings, maternal hypothyroidism appears to play a role in at least 15% of children whose IQs are more than 1 standard deviation below the mean, millions of children..Studies have also established a connection between maternal thyroid disease and babies born with heart defects(509h). The American Assoc. of Clinical Endocrinologists advises that all women considering becoming pregnant should get a serum thyrotropin test so that hypothyroidism can be diagnosed and treated early(558). Another test that should be considered is a hair element test for mercury or toxic metal exposures and essential mineral imbalances.
Studies have also established a "clear association" between the presence of thyroid antibodies and spontaneous abortions(511). Levels of recurrent abortions in a population with positive levels of thyroid antibodies in one study were 40%, 5 times the normal rate(511). Hypothyroidism is a well documented risk factor in spontaneous abortions and infertility(9,511). Another study of pregnant women who suffer from hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) found a four-times greater risk for miscarriage during the second trimester than those who don't(511), and women with untreated thyroid deficiency were four-times more likely to have a child with a developmental disabilities(509f-h). Mercury through its affects on the endocrine system is also documented to cause other reproductive effects including infertility, low sperm counts, abnormal sperm, endometriosis, PMS, adverse effects on reproductive organs, etc. (9,50,104,105,390,500).
Mercury blocks thyroid hormone production by occupying iodine binding sites and inhibiting hormone action even when the measured thyroid level appears to be in proper range(390,35). The thyroid and hypothalamus regulate body temperature and many metabolic processes including enzymatic processes that when inhibited result in higher dental decay(35) . Mercury damage thus commonly results in poor bodily temperature control, in addition to many problems caused by hormonal imbalances such as depression. Such hormonal secretions are affected at levels of mercury exposure much lower than the acute toxicity effects normally tested (50,390,84), as previously confirmed by hormonal/reproductive problems in animal populations (104,381c,50d). Mercury also damages the blood brain barrier and facilitates penetration of the brain by other toxic metals and substances(311). Hypothyroidism is also known to be a major factor in cardiovascular disease(510,509h).
The pituitary gland controls many of the body's endocrine system functions and secretes hormones that control most bodily processes, including the immune system and reproductive systems . One study found mercury levels in the pituitary gland ranged from 6.3 to 77 ppb(85), while another(348) found the mean level to be 30ppb- levels found to be neurotoxic and cytotoxic in animal studies. Some of the effect on depression is related to mercury's effect of reducing the level of posterior pituitary hormone(oxytocin). Low levels of pituitary function are associated with depression and suicidal thoughts, and appear to be a major factor in suicide of teenagers and other vulnerable groups. The pituitary glands of a group of dentists had 800 times more mercury than controls(99). This may explain why dentists have much higher levels of emotional problems, depression, suicide, etc(500,Section VIII.). Amalgam fillings, nickel and gold crowns are major factors in reducing pituitary function(35,50,369,etc.). Supplementary oxytocin extract has been found to alleviate many of these mood problems(35), along with replacement of metals in the mouth(107,500-Section VI.). The normalization of pituitary function also often normalizes menstrual cycle problems, endometriosis, and increases fertility(35,9,500).
Mercury accumulates in the adrenal gland and disrupts adrenal gland function(84,369,381).
In general immune activation from toxics such as heavy metals resulting in cytokine release and abnormalities of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis can cause changes in the brain, fatigue, and severe psychological symptoms(369,375,379-383,453,107) such as depression, profound fatigue, muscoskeletal pain, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal and neurological problems as are seen in CFS, Fibromyalgia, and autoimmune thyroiditis. Such symptoms usually improve significantly after amalgam removal(500,Section VI). Such hypersensitivity has been found most common in those with genetic predisposition to heavy metal sensitivity (342,369,375,382) such as found more frequently in patients with HLA-DRA antigens(375,381,383). A significant portions of the population appear to fall in this category.
Thyroid imbalances, which are documented to be commonly caused by mercury (369,382,459,35,50,91,212), have been found to play a major role in chronic heart conditions such as clogged arteries, mycardial infarction, and chronic heart failure(510). In a recent study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers reported that subclinical hypothyroidism is highly prevalent in elderly women and is strongly and independently associated with cardiac atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction(510c). People who tested hypothyroid usually have significantly higher levels of homocysteine and cholesterol, which are documented factors in heart disease. 50% of those testing hypothyroid, also had high levels of homocysteine (hyperhomocysteinenic) and 90% were either hyperhomocystemic or hypercholesterolemic(510a). These are also known factors in developing arteriosclerotic vascular disease. Homocysteine levels are significantly increased in hypothtyroid patients and normalize with treatment(510efg).
The thymus gland plays a significant part in the establishment of the immune system and lymphatic system from the 12th week of gestation until puberty. Inhibition of thymus function can thus affect proper development of the immune and lymphatic systems. Lymphocyte differentiation, maturation and peripheral functions are affected by the thymic protein hormone thymulin. Mercury at very low concentrations has been seen to impair some lymphocytic functions causing subclinical manifestations in exposed workers. Animal studies have shown mercury significantly inhibits thymulin production at very low micromolar levels of exposure(513a). The metal allergens mercuric chloride and nickel sulfate were found to stimulate DNA synthesis of both immature and mature thymocytes at low levels of exposure, so chronic exposure can have long term effects(513b). Also, micromolar levels of mercuric ions specifically blocked synthesis of ribosomal RNA, causing fibrillarin relocation from the nucleolus to the nucleoplasm in epithelial cells as a consequence of the blockade of ribosomal RNA synthesis. This appears to be a factor in deregulation of basic cellular events and in autoimmunity caused by mercury. There were specific immunotoxic and biochemical alterations in lymphoid organs of mice treated at the lower doses of mercury. The immunological defects were consistent with altered T-cell function as evidenced by decreases in both T-cell mitogen and mixed leukocyte responses. There was a particular association between the T-cell defects and inhibition of thymic pyruvate kinase, the rate-limiting enzyme for glycolysis(513c). Pyruvate and glycolysis problems are often seen in mercury toxic children being treated for autism(409).
A direct mechanism involving mercury's inhibition of hormones and cellular enzymatic processes by binding with the hydroxyl radical(SH) in amino acids appears to be a major part of the connection to allergic/immune reactive/autoimmune conditions such as autism/ADHD(409-411,439,464,468,476,33,160), schizophrenia(409,410), lupus(113,234,330,331,468), Scleroderma(468), eczema and psoriasis (323,375,385,419,33), and allergies (271,313,330,331, 369,375,468). Mercury and other toxic metals also form inorganic compounds with OH, NH2, CL, in addition to the SH radical and thus inhibits many cellular enzyme processes, coenzymes, hormones, and blood cells(405,409,500,555). For example mercury has been found to strongly inhibit the activity of dipeptyl peptidase (DPP IV) which is required in the digestion of the milk protein casein(411,412) as well as of xanthine oxidase(439). Studies involving a large sample of autistic and schizophrenic patients found that over 90 % of those tested had high levels of the neurotoxic milk protein beta-casomorphine-7 in their blood and urine and defective enzymatic processes for digesting milk protein(410). Elimination of milk products from the diet has been found to improve the condition. Similar results have been seen in similarly but lesser affected patients with other pervasive developmental conditions such as ADHD. Such populations have also been found to have many with high levels of mercury who recover after mercury detox (409,413,369,160). As mercury levels are reduced the protein binding is reduced and improvement in the enzymatic process occurs. Additional cellular level enzymatic effects of mercury's binding with proteins include blockage of sulfur oxidation processes (33,114,194,330,331,412), enzymatic processes involving vitamins B6 and B12(418), effects on the cytochrome-C energy processes (43,84,338c,35), along with mercury's adverse effects on cellular mineral levels of calcium, magnesium, zinc, and lithium (43,96,333,338,160,500). Thus some of the main mechanisms of toxic effects of metals include cytotoxicity; changes in cellular membrane permeability; inhibition of enzymes, coenzymes, and hormones; and generation of lipid peroxides or free radicals- which result in neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, impaired cellular respiration, gastrointestinal/metabolic effects, hormonal effects, and immune reactivity or autoimmunity.
Mercury has been found to cause hormonal changes which cause hair loss and greying of hair. In a large German study where 20,000 were tested, allergies and hair-loss were found to be 2-3 times as high in a group with large numbers of amalgam fillings compared to controls(199,9). Levels of mercury in follicular fluid was significantly higher for those with amalgam fillings (9,146). Based on this finding, a Gynecological Clinic that sees a large number of women suffering from alopecia/hair loss that was not responding to treatment had amalgams replaced in 132 women who had not responded to treatment. 68 % of the women then responded to treatment and alopecia was alleviated(187). In other studies involving amalgam removal, the majority had significant improvement (40,317,500). Higher levels of hormone disturbances, immune disturbances, infertility, and recurrent fungal infections were also found in the amalgam group. The results of hormone tests, cell culture studies, an intervention studies agree(9,146). Other clinics have also found alleviation of hair loss/alopecia after amalgam removal and detox(40,317). Another study in Japan found significantly higher levels of mercury in gray hair than in dark hair(402).
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