Diane Farnsworth, 2002.

Pink Disease was and still is a very nasty disease. The severity and duration of the disease vary. In the English speaking western world, the age of onset is usually between 6-14 months.

The most common KNOWN cause of Pink Disease was mercury containing teething powders. In the English speaking Western World, the use of mercury in teething powders was banned in the 1950's. There were, and still are, numerous other household, industrial, natural, agricultural and medical sources of mercury in the environment.

The symptoms of Pink Disease are diverse, complex and sometimes fatal. They include:

  1. An itchy, burning rash.
  2. Skin that peels off in layers.
  3. Photophobia (extreme light sensitivity).
  4. Muscle weakness and flaccidity (atonia).
  5. Clumsiness (ataxia).
  6. Digestive problems including loss of weight, loss of appetite, vomiting and constipation.
  7. Cold, clammy, swollen pink or bluish hands and feet.
  8. Scratching and tearing at skin and sucking and chewing of fingers.
  9. Anaemia.
  10. Profuse sweating.
  11. Ulceration of the gums.
  12. Insomnia.
  13. The child is restless, irritable, miserable and anxious.
  14. Hair pulling and/or loss of hair.
  15. Teeth loosen and/or fall out.
  16. Convulsive seizures and petit mal attacks.
  17. Elevated temperature, blood pressure and pulse rate.
  18. Excess salivation.
  19. Enlarged lymph glands.
  20. Low blood sodium level.
  21. General excess sensitivity of the skin to touch, temperature, water and UV light.
  22. Excess nasal discharge.
  23. Abnormal skin and muscle sensations.
  24. Numbness of the extremities.
  25. If circulation is really poor in the extremities, gangrene and auto-amputation can occur.
  26. Secondary infections particularly to the skin and lungs.
  27. Death.

The mothers and other care-givers of babies with Pink Disease suffered severe exhaustion from lack of sleep, severe stress and loss of weight. Family life was generally disrupted by the baby's constant crying.

The loss of muscle tone was so severe that babies who were walking at the time they contracted Pink Disease frequently stopped walking. Those who hadn't started to walk, tended to start walking later than average.

Between 10% and 25% of babies who got the disease died, often as a result of secondary infections such as broncho-pneumonia, circulatory collapse and very high fever.

It's generally accepted that exposure to mercury was the cause of Pink Disease ALONG with some other predisposing factor, such as hypersensitivity to mercury, a molecular malfunction, immaturity or malfunction of adrenal medulla, or prior illness.

The most common cause of mercury exposure for babies in the English speaking Western World, up until the late 1950's, was from certain brands of teething powders. Teething powders were also known as soothing powders. It is estimated that only 1 in 500 babies given teething powders got Pink Disease.

Pink Disease occurred in older children in Europe because the most common cause was worming preparations containing mercury.

A pamphlet about Pink Disease in Word format is available.