Severe mercury poisoning found in 5-year-old boy

BEIJING/KUNMING - Police in Kunming, Yunnan province, announced the start of an investigation into the mercury poisoning of a 5-year-old boy on Tuesday.

The boy, Yu Jiangyue, is currently receiving treatment at the 307 Hospital of the People's Liberation Army in Beijing, where initial tests showed the level of mercury to be more than 200 times normal in his blood and more than 10,000 times normal in his urine.

Bai Jie, an officer with the police in Guandu district of Kunming, said on Tuesday that officers arrived in Beijing and talked with family members and doctors who are treating the boy, but there has been no progress in the case.

The boy's father, surnamed Yu, told the Yunnan Information Daily that the family first found hints of mercury in the boy's excrement a year and a half ago.

The boy became severely ill at the beginning of this year and had a fever for more than a week, he said.

The father said the boy also had two large bumps in his buttocks, and silver material was found inside when the bumps were squeezed.

"We immediately took him to the hospital, and the X-ray radiograph showed that there was mercury all over his body, especially in the stomach," he said.

Yu said that the boy once told him that mercury had been given to him in food by a fellow student at his kindergarten. He said there was no chance the boy could have received it from anyone else.

"We were with him all the time, except for his time in the kindergarten," Yu said.

The family first had the boy's health checked at the First Affiliated Hospital of Kunming Medical University, where tests showed a stunning amount of the liquid metal concentrated in parts of the boy's body.

However, the hospital offered no medical solution, as doctors feared that an operation would cause mercury to flow into the wounds and result in severe infections.

The family then went to a hospital in Guangzhou, which also offered no solution. Finally, the family went to the hospital in Beijing.

The boy's mother, Jiang Xiaoling, who kept the boy company in a hospital ward, told Beijing News on Monday that the he was in stable condition and the hospital planned to perform a surgical procedure on Tuesday.

She said doctors told her earlier Monday that the operation would be delayed.

"Most of our family members are with him in Beijing right now. We only hope he will get better as soon as possible," she said.

Jiang declined an interview request by China Daily. But she later sent a text message to a reporter saying that the boy is "doing fine".

A public relations officer with the hospital also declined an interview, saying the police had requested no publicity at this time.

Mercury, a heavy, silvery-white toxic metal commonly used in thermometers, barometers and manometers, can cause severe harm to body organs, especially the kidneys and liver, according to experts.

"If mercury is found in muscle tissue, it can be discharged from the body through surgery. If it is found in internal organs, it can only be discharged through medicine," said Wang Yue, a pathologist at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital.

"The difficulty of treatment varies depending on the time the mercury has been in the body and the parts of the body in which it is found."