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Mercury: Research on the Environmental Neurotoxin’s Link to Dementia

Dementia and Alzheimer's 

The epidemic of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease effects countless numbers of families worldwide, mine included. In an effort to understand the root cause of this relatively new phenomenon, I spent over 80 hours reading through scores of research studies and the data that I uncovered may startle you, but also give you hope. Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease is not “normal” or our fate. There are clear causative factors which can be mitigated once you understand them. There is a lot of information to cover so this exposé is being presented in three parts to make it easier to digest. The first two parts will reveal causative factors, and the third part will offer solutions.

It is estimated that more than 5 million people in the US currently have Alzheimer’s disease, the 6th leading cause of death in the US. Those numbers don’t include other types of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association further states that 1 in 3 seniors will have one form of dementia or  another when  they die. [1] These numbers are staggering and expected to grow as the baby boomers age. We are so used to the elderly being afflicted by dementia that many accept it’s our fate, as if our minds have an expiration date. However, as the World Health Organization and Alzheimer’s Association explain, older age may be a risk factor, but dementia actually isn’t a normal part of aging. [1, 2]

Much is written about how to diagnose, treat, and manage dementias, as well as warning signs and risk factors. But that’s not what I want to discuss in this 3-part series. Instead, I want to talk about the “elephant in the room” namely the correlations between dementia, heavy metal toxicity, and microbes. Many in the scientific community agree that there should be more research into these areas, but did you know that there already has been a great deal of research completed with compelling results? Probably not, because it’s not routinely discussed in the doctor’s office or mainstream media. This series will take a look at the relationship between dementia and just two toxic metals, mercury and aluminum, as well as the role microbes may play. However, lead, arsenic, cadmium, and copper in our environment may also be entering our bodies and causing harm to our brains and central nervous systems.

Mercury as a Neurotoxin

There is no question that mercury is a neurotoxin, in fact one of the most toxic substances on the planet, with no safe level of exposure. [3] It has been established that mercury can pass through the blood brain barrier, and accumulate in the brain. [4] Studies have found elevated levels of mercury in the brains of deceased Alzheimer’s patients. [5, 6, 7] However, this mercury toxicity may not be detected in a living dementia or A.D. patient because mercury levels in the blood, urine, and hair don’t indicate if there is mercury stored in the brain; an autopsy is the only way to determine this. [7]

In 2010, a team of academic researchers from the US and Germany conducted a comprehensive and systematic review of studies already completed on this topic. They reported “Thirty-two studies, out of forty testing memory in individuals exposed to inorganic mercury, found significant memory deficits”. [6] One of the researchers, Professor Deth, a now retired professor of pharmacology at Northeastern University’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences stated, “Mercury is clearly contributing to neurological problems, whose rate is increasing in parallel with rising levels of mercury. It seems that the two are tied together.” [8]

Dr. Boyd Haley, Retired Professor and Chair of the Department  of Chemistry, University of Kentucky has extensively researched the connection between mercury and Alzheimer’s and found “extended mercury exposure to neurons in culture has been shown to produce three of the widely accepted pathological diagnostic hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. These are elevated amyloid protein, hyper-phosphorylation of Tau, and formation of neurofibrillary tangles”. [9]

Mercury Amalgam Filling

Amalgam Fillings

Even though the neurotoxic effects of mercury are clearly known, we continue to be exposed to this poisonous substance in various forms. One common source of mercury exposure is through the use of dental amalgam fillings. When a person has amalgam fillings, mercury is continuously emitted as a vapor. This vapor is easily inhaled into the lungs and then absorbed into the  bloodstream. Through the bloodstream mercury reaches various parts of the body, including the brain, and is retained. [10, 11] Some researchers have found a correlation between the number of amalgam fillings present, and the amount of mercury present in the brain. [7, 11, 12]

However, other studies found that the number of amalgams and amount of stored mercury isn’t always easily correlated because some people are able to clear the metal from their brain easier than others; Dr. Haley stated, “the inability to excrete mercury may play a major role in the build up of brain mercury levels over many years.” [13] The elderly tend to have a harder time detoxing.

Patients aren’t the only ones suffering the consequences of these toxic fillings. The Scientific Committee of the European Commission found that, “In most studies available, mercury exposure in dental clinics resulted in significant adverse health effects in dental workers”. Even 30 years later, 15% of dentists and assistants, “showed increased mercury induced neurological deficits” [7] Dr. Matt Young, President of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology has said, "Mercury must seriously be considered as a causal agent of Alzheimer's. It is imperative that the National Institute of Health fund realistic research regarding the mercury Alzheimer's connection, which heretofore has for the most part been ignored.” [14] To make matters worse, “Exposure of patients with amalgam restorations to radio frequency radiation emitted from conventional Wi-Fi devices can increase mercury release from amalgam restorations”. [15] [16]

Most dentists in the US have switched to less toxic materials, but for 150+ years untold numbers of people had mouthfuls of cavities filled with mercury amalgams including our current senior population and aging baby boomers. If you don’t have these toxic fillings you are still being effected by them through the environment. Lack of EPA regulations has allowed dentists to dump tons of mercury into our sewers every year since the beginning of their use. These lax controls have allowed mercury to spread into rivers and streams, into the air through sludge incineration, and even onto cropland when used as fertilizer. Also, the cremation of the deceased with amalgam fillings releases mercury into the air. [17]

The FDA and ADA have continued to downplay these concerns, even as other countries ban or phase out dental amalgams completely; the WHO and United Nations Environmental Programme have both voiced serious concerns about mercury exposure. [18,19] So what does the ADA say about all this? Dr. Mark Breiner, author of Whole Body Dentistry, explains “the American Dental Association remained adamant that mercury in patients’ mouths is safe, and, in 1988 it changed its code of ethics making it unethical for a dentist to recommend the removal of amalgam because of mercury”. [20, 21]

Other Sources of Mercury

Fish and seafood; mercury bioaccumulates so tends to be present in higher amounts in larger, longer-living predatory species

Adult and child flu vaccines contain an ethyl-mercury preservative called thimerosal; other children’s vaccines contained this preservative until the FDA banned it in 1998 [22]

Fluorescent light bulbs, including the now popular energy saving compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), which international programs wish to phase out [19]

Mercury thermometers and other measuring devices

Burning coal, and mining gold releases mercury into the environment

In past centuries, hats were cured with mercurous nitrate creating a widespread occupational exposure and “mad hatters” syndrome. Those wearing these mercury laced hats also were exposed but at lower levels. Unbelievable as it may seem, from the 17th to 19th centuries, mercury pills and elixirs were common to treat syphilis, and also were routinely prescribed as health and longevity tonics causing deleterious effects and even death.

Additional Causative Factors to Consider and Solutions

The second part of this three-part series will focus on other potential causative factors, namely aluminum and microbes. Week 3 will discuss possible solutions to this crisis.

Resources

[1] 2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Alzheimer’s Association, pages 17, 26, 10

[2] 10 Facts on Dementia World Health Organization

[3] Bose-O’Reilly S, McCarty K, Steckling N, Lettmeier B (2011) Mercury Exposure and Children’s Health Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Healthcare

[4] Aschner M, Aschner J (1990) Mercury neurotoxicity: mechanisms of blood-brain barrier transport Neuroscience Biobehavioral Review

[5] Mutter J, Naumann J, Sadaghiani C, Schneider R, Walach H (2004) Alzheimer disease: mercury as pathogenetic factor and apolipoprotein E as a moderator Neuroendocrinology Letters

[6] Mutter J, Curth A, Naumann J, Deth R, Walach H (2010) Does Inorganic Mercury Play a Role in Alzheimer’s Disease? Journal of Alzheimer's Disease

[7] Mutter J (2011) Is dental amalgam safe for humans? The opinion of the scientific committee of the European Commission Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology

[8] Kornwitz J (2010) Research Suggests Mercury Linked to Dementia News@Northeastern

[9] Haley B (2002) The Relationship of Toxic Effects of Mercury to Exacerbation of the Medical Condition classified as Alzheimer’s Disease

[10] Lorscheider FL, Vimy MJ, Summers AO (1995) Mercury exposure from "silver" tooth fillings: emerging evidence questions a traditional dental paradigm FASB Journal

[11] Health Canada: The Safety of Dental Amalgam (1996), page 4

[12] Eggleston DW, Nylander M (1987) Correlation of dental amalgam with mercury in brain tissue Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry

[13] Haley, B Mercury toxicity: Genetic susceptibility and synergetic effects (2005), pages 540-41

[14] Mercury Linked To Alzheimer’s Disease (2010) International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology

[15] Effect of radiofrequency radiation from Wi-Fi devices on mercury release from amalgam restorations (2016) Journal of Environmental Health Science and Engineering

[16] Increased Release of Mercury from Dental Amalgam Fillings due to Maternal Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields as a Possible Mechanism for the High Rates of Autism in the Offspring: Introducing a Hypothesis (2016) Journal of Biomedical Physics and Engineering

[17] Dental group defends mercury fillings amid mounting evidence of risks (2016) McClatchy DC

[18] Exposure to Mercury a Public Health Concern (2007) WHO

[19] Minamata Convention on Mercury (2013) UN Environmental Programme, page 46

[20] Breiner M (2011) Whole Body Dentistry: A Complete Guide to Understanding the Impact of Dentistry on Total Health, page 48

[21] American Dental Association Code of Professional Ethics, Section 5.A.1

[22] Vaccine Ingredients - Thimerosol Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Judy DeLorenzo is a holistic health practitioner, garden foodie, and daycare founder. She has a deep understanding that food is medicine and "we are what we eat" so we should treat our bodies with respect by eating pure, whole, super nutritious foods. She loves to grow and shop for food, create recipes, cook, take food photos, and share the process with clients, her social media audience, family, and friends. You can learn more about Judy's healing practice at Biofield Healing and enjoy her blog posts at A Life Well Planted. Read all of Judy's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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