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Mercury injections?

Person holding injection

I recently read an article about the ritual use of mercury in immigrant populations. It jumped out at me because this is an issue that Venkat Prasad, MD, the medical director at Tri-County Community Health Center, has seen in his health center. A couple of years ago, Dr. Prasad wrote about a case of two recently arrived immigrants from Honduras who used mercury injections to ward off evil as they made their journey across the border ( Env. Health Persp. Vol 112, Num 13, Sept 2004 or MCN’s reprint in Streamline). The use of mercury to bring good luck is not uncommon for practitioners of Santeria. When used for good luck, small amounts of mercury are sprinkled in and around homes and cars. Mercury injections are a less common phenomenon. The extent of the ritual use of mercury is not well documented, but a few cases of injected mercury have come to the attention of clinicians. Exposure to mercury (regardless of the route) is problematic, but the injections are far more serious. Most recently a Mexican women required surgery and suffered a severe infection from a mercury injection to help lift her luck as undocumented immigrant. (see the article in the Trentonian) The Santatarian priest who gave her the injection has been jailed. This is one more example of the unique issues we face as migrant health clinicians and how important it is to keep an open mind about patient symptoms.