The three modern faces of mercury

Environ Health Perspect. 2002 Feb;110 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):11-23. doi: 10.1289/ehp.02110s111.


The three modern "faces" of mercury are our perceptions of risk from the exposure of billions of people to methyl mercury in fish, mercury vapor from amalgam tooth fillings, and ethyl mercury in the form of thimerosal added as an antiseptic to widely used vaccines. In this article I review human exposure to and the toxicology of each of these three species of mercury. Mechanisms of action are discussed where possible. Key gaps in our current knowledge are identified from the points of view both of risk assessment and of mechanisms of action.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dental Amalgam / chemistry*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Fishes*
  • Food Contamination
  • Humans
  • Mercury / adverse effects*
  • Mercury / pharmacokinetics
  • Methylmercury Compounds / adverse effects*
  • Methylmercury Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / adverse effects*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Thimerosal / adverse effects*
  • Vaccines
  • Volatilization


  • Methylmercury Compounds
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical
  • Vaccines
  • Thimerosal
  • Dental Amalgam
  • Mercury