Mercury is eliminated as glutathione (GSH) conjugates. GSH production is mediated by glutamyl-cysteine ligase (GCL), and conjugation by glutathione S-transferases (GST). This study tested if polymorphisms in GCL and GST genes modify mercury retention in humans exposed to elemental mercury vapor. Total mercury concentrations in whole blood, plasma and urine, and genotypes for GCLC, GCLM, GSTA1, GSTM1, GSTP1, and GSTT1 were determined in 309 gold miners, gold buyers and controls. The presence of the GCLM-588T allele was associated with increased blood, plasma and urine mercury levels. These results indicate that genotypes with decreased GSH availability for mercury conjugation affect the metabolism of inorganic mercury.