Effects of occupational exposure to mercury vapour on the central nervous system

Br J Ind Med. 1992 Aug;49(8):545-55. doi: 10.1136/oem.49.8.545.


Possible effects of mercury on the central nervous system (CNS) were examined in a group of chloralkali workers exposed to mercury (n = 89) and compared with a control group (n = 75), by registration of subjective symptoms, personality changes, forearm tremor, and performance on six computerised psychometric tests in the two groups. The groups were similar in age, education, verbal comprehension, and work tasks. In the chloralkali group, median blood mercury concentration (B-Hg) was 55 nmol/l, serum mercury concentration (S-Hg) 45 nmol/l, and urine mercury concentration (U-Hg) 14.3 nmol/mmol creatinine (25.4 micrograms/g creatinine). Corresponding concentrations in the control group were 15 nmol/l, 4 nmol/l, and 1.1 nmol/mmol creatinine (1.9 micrograms/g creatinine) respectively. The number of self reported symptoms, the scores for tiredness and confusion in the profile of mood states (POMS), and the degree of neuroticism in the Eysenck personality inventory (EPI), were significantly higher in the mercury exposed group compared with the controls. Performance on the psychometric tests and tremor frequency spectra did not differ significantly between the two groups. Dose-response calculations showed weak but statistically significant relations between symptom prevalence and current mercury concentrations in both blood and urine. The performance on three of the psychometric tests was negatively correlated with earlier peak exposures. The findings indicate a slight mercury induced effect on the CNS among the chloralkali workers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis
  • Chemical Industry*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Mercury / adverse effects*
  • Mercury / blood
  • Mercury / urine
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Physical Examination
  • Psychometrics
  • Volatilization


  • Mercury