Biological monitoring of environmental and occupational exposure to mercury

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 1991;63(3):161-7. doi: 10.1007/BF00381563.


Biological monitoring was used to assess mercury exposure from occupational and environmental sources in a group of chloralkali workers (n = 89) and in a control group (n = 75). In the control group, the median value for blood mercury (B-Hg) was 15 nmol/l, that for serum mercury (S-Hg) was 4 nmol/l and that for urinary mercury (U-Hg) was 1.1 nmol/mmol creatinine. Corresponding levels in the chloralkali group were 55 nmol/l, 45 nmol/l and 14.3 nmol/mmol creatinine, respectively. In the control group, there were statistically significant relationships between fish consumption and both B-Hg and S-Hg values (P less than 0.001), whereas U-Hg correlated best with the individual amalgam burden (P less than 0.01). In the chloralkali group, the mercury levels in blood and urine were significantly related to the type of work (P less than 0.001) but not to the length of employment, to fish consumption or to the quantity of dental amalgam fillings. In both groups there were poor correlations between smoking or alcohol intake and the mercury levels in blood and urine. The results strongly suggest that fish is an important source of methylmercury exposure and that amalgam fillings are probably the most important source of inorganic mercury exposure among occupationally unexposed individuals. In the chloralkali group, mercury exposure from fish and amalgam was overshadowed by occupational exposure to inorganic mercury.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dental Amalgam
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Fishes
  • Humans
  • Mercury / analysis*
  • Mercury / blood
  • Mercury / urine
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sweden


  • Dental Amalgam
  • Mercury