A Small Dose of Mercury

  • An Introduction into the Health Effects of Mercury

Mercury Dossier

Name: Mercury (Hg) (inorganic)

  • Use: consumer products, industry, dental amalgams, switches, thermometers
  • Source: mining, environment, workplace
  • Recommended daily intake: none (not essential)
  • Absorption: inhalation, intestine poor
  • Sensitive individuals: fetus, children, women of childbearing age
  • Toxicity/symptoms: nervous system, irritability tremor, drowsiness, depression, incoordination, and tremors, (mad as a hatter)
  • Regulatory facts: ATSDR - MRL - Inhalation 0.2 µg/m3
  • General facts: long history of use, liquid silver evaporates at room temperature, bacteria convert to organic methyl mercury
  • Environmental: global environmental contaminate
  • Recommendations: avoid, recycle mercury-containing devices

Name: Mercury (organic) (methyl mercury - Hg-CH3)

  • Use: limited laboratory use
  • Source: contaminates some fish (e.g. tuna, shark, pike)
  • Recommended daily intake: none (not essential)
  • Absorption: intestine (90%)
  • Sensitive individuals: fetus, children, women of child bearing age
  • Toxicity/symptoms: nervous system, developmental effects include cerebral palsy-like symptoms with involvement of the visual, sensory, and auditory systems, tingling around lips & mouth, tingling in fingers & toes, vision, hearing loss
  • Regulatory facts: EPA - RfD - 0.1 µg/kg/day
    FDA - 1 ppm in commercial fish
    ATSDR - MRL - 0.30 µg/kg/day
  • General facts: bacteria convert inorganic mercury to methyl mercury then in to food supply (bioaccumulation)
  • Environmental: global environmental contaminate, bioaccumulates in some fish
  • Recommendations: avoid, recycle mercury-containing devices

Mercury Chapter

PowerPoint presentation

More Information and References

European, Asian, and international Agencies

North American Agencies

  • Health Canada - Mercury (accessed: 5 April 2009). Health Canada provides information on the health effects and environmental distribution of mercury.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Non-Government Organizations

  • The Mercury Policy Project (MPP) (accessed: 5 April 2009). "MPP works to raise awareness about the threat of mercury contamination and promote policies to eliminate mercury uses, reduce the export and trafficking of mercury, and significantly reduce mercury exposures at the local, national, and international levels."


  • Clarkson, T. (1998). Methylmercury and fish consumption: Weighing the risks. Can Med Assoc J, 158, 1465-1466.
  • Clarkson, T. W. (2002). The three modern faces of mercury. Environ Health Perspect, 110 Suppl 1, 11-23.
  • Gilbert, S. G., & Grant-Webster, K. S. (1995). Neurobehavioral effects of developmental methylmercury exposure. Environ Health Perspect, 6, 135-142.
  • Kales, S. N., & Goldman, R. H. (2002). Mercury exposure: current concepts, controversies, and a clinic's experience. J Occup Environ Med, 44(2), 143-154.
  • Martin, D. M., DeRouen, T. A., & Leroux, B. G. (1997). Is Mercury Amalgam Safe for Dental Fillings? Washington Public Health, 15(Fall), 30-32.
  • John Putman (1972). Quicksilver and Slow Death. National Geographic 142(4), October, 1972, 507-527.
    Zeitz, P., Orr, M. F., & Kaye, W. E. (2002). Public health consequences of mercury spills: Hazardous Substances Emergency Events Surveillance system, 1993-1998. Environ Health Perspect, 110(2), 129-132.
  • No labels