In 2015, workers dismantling a fluorescent lamp factory in Korea were affected by mercury poisoning from exposure to mercury vapor.
Eighteen out of the 21 workers who participated in the demolition project presented with symptoms of poisoning and, of these, 10 had persistent symptoms even at 18 months after the initial exposure to mercury vapor. Early symptoms of 18 workers included a general skin rash, pruritus, myalgia, sleep disturbance, and cough and sputum production. Following alleviation of these initial symptoms, late symptoms, such as easy fatigue, insomnia, bad dreams, and anxiety disorder, began to manifest in 10 out of 18 patients. Seven workers underwent psychiatric care owing to sleep disturbance, anxiety disorder, and depression, and three workers underwent dermatologic treatment for hyperpigmentation, erythematous skin eruption, and chloracne-like skin lesions. Furthermore, three workers developed a coarse jerky movement, two had swan neck deformity of the fingers, and two received care at an anesthesiology clinic for paresthesia, such as burning sensation, cold sensation, and pain. Two workers underwent urologic treatment for dysfunction of the urologic system and impotence. However, symptomatic treatment did not result in satisfactory relief of these symptoms.
Awareness of the perils of mercury and prevention of mercury exposure are critical for preventing health hazards caused by mercury vapor. Chelation therapy should be performed promptly following mercury poisoning to minimize damage.