Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by the degeneration of brain cells, meaning fewer nerve cell connections, leading to a decline in thinking, behavioural, and social skills that disrupt a person’s ability to function independently. It causes severe memory impairment where the patient loses the ability to remember recent conversations and carry out everyday tasks.
Richard Deth, a professor at Northeastern University, discovered a new fact, where he found that mercury concentrations were found in certain regions of the brain and the blood of some patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Deth suggests that long term exposure to mercury may produce symptoms of this neurodegenerative disorder. He mentions a certain biological mechanism which tends to destroy the neurological functions in human.
Though their research restricts them to conduct experiments with mercury on humans because of precautionary measures, the observations of animal behaviour on the exposure of mercury suggest symptoms of Alzheimer’s. These changes are not just pathological but also include poor cognitive performance and confusion. Observing all these conditions, Deth says,
“Mercury is clearly contributing to neurological problems, whose rate is increasing in parallel with rising levels of mercury”
Mercury enters the food chains in various ways as it is found in fishes, dental fillings, and fluorescent light bulbs. This toxic metal enters the body in the form of gas and gets trapped inside the brain cells leading to their degeneration over a period of time. The mercury attacks selenium, an antioxidant that keeps the brain healthy and prevents chemical reactions from taking place. This “oxidative stress”, as Deth calls it, kills the cells and stops the functioning of the nerves.
According to further research, mercury has been observed to produce various pathological changes leading to not only Alzheimer’s but various other neurodegenerative disorders. Therefore, as a public health preventive measure, industrial, and medical usage of mercury should be eliminated as soon as possible.