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Jeremy Piven's High Mercury Count: FAQ

Piven's Doctor Answers Questions About Actor Jeremy Piven's High Mercury Levels
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 18, 2008 -- Actor Jeremy Piven has ended his role in the Broadway revival of the David Mamet play Speed-the-Plow after being diagnosed with a "high mercury count."

Mercury is an element found throughout the environment. High levels of exposure to mercury can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system of people of all ages, especially fetuses, according to background information from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

WebMD spoke with Carlon Colker, MD, FACN, FACSM, who is treating Piven. Colker is the chief executive officer and medical director of Peak Wellness Inc. in Greenwich, Conn., and Beverly Hills, Calif.

Does Piven have mercury poisoning?

"The word poisoning implies some surreptitious act, like we poison rats," Colker tells WebMD. "The proper term is mercury toxicity. And the answer is 'yes' to mercury toxicity."

Colker says Piven's original mercury level was "shockingly elevated" at nearly six times the upper tolerable limit and the highest Colker had ever seen in his practice.

"You can imagine how stunned I was," Colker says.

What were Piven's symptoms?

Colker says Piven's symptoms started with "extreme fatigue and exhaustion" that began around the time Speed-the-Plow started. Colker says Piven didn't want to quit the show at that point, but his symptoms progressed to "profound neuromuscular weakness ... dizziness and nausea," says Colker.

At that point, Colker hospitalized Piven for three days at an unnamed hospital and brought in a cardiologist and neurologist who agreed with Colker's approach. Colker says the cardiologist checked on Piven's heart rhythm, which is now normal, and recommended "enforced rest" for Piven "because he knows Jeremy would crawl back to that stage if he could," Colker says. Piven is no longer in the hospital.

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