Urinary mercury and biomarkers of early renal dysfunction in environmentally and occupationally exposed adults: a three-country study

Environ Res. 2008 Oct;108(2):224-32. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2008.06.005. Epub 2008 Aug 5.


We conducted a cross-sectional study in Sweden, Italy and Poland to assess environmental and occupational exposure to mercury from chloralkali (CA) plants and the potential association with biomarkers of early renal dysfunction. Questionnaire data and first-morning urine samples were collected from 757 eligible subjects. Urine samples were analysed for mercury corrected for creatinine (U-HgC), alpha-1-microglobulin (A1M), N-acetyl-beta-glucosaminidase (NAG) and albumin. Determinants of urinary mercury excretion were examined. Levels of kidney markers were compared in three U-HgC categories, and differences were tested taking age and other covariates into account. In the general population, the median U-HgC was higher in Italian (1.2 microg/gC) than in Polish (0.22 microg/gC) or Swedish (0.21 microg/gC) subjects, and no effect of living close to CA plants could be shown. Dental amalgam, chewing on amalgam, and fish consumption were positively associated with U-HgC. In subjects from the general population, no effects on the kidney markers could be detected, while in men, including workers occupationally exposed to mercury, U-HgC was positively associated with the kidney markers, especially with NAG, but to some extent also with A1M and albumin. Differences in urinary mercury and kidney markers in the general population between three studied countries could possibly be due to dietary factors, increased susceptibility to mercury at low selenium intake or co-exposure to other nephrotoxic metals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Environmental Pollutants / urine*
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Kidney Diseases / chemically induced
  • Kidney Diseases / epidemiology
  • Kidney Diseases / urine*
  • Mercury / toxicity
  • Mercury / urine*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / urine*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis
  • Poland / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden / epidemiology


  • Biomarkers
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Mercury