A review of normal concentrations of mercury in human blood

Sci Total Environ. 1991 Mar;100 Spec No:235-82. doi: 10.1016/0048-9697(91)90380-w.


The present survey is a critical review and quality grading of 98 publications in the international scientific literature presenting mercury concentrations in human whole blood, blood cells and plasma of individuals who have not been occupationally exposed to mercury ("normal values"). Most of the papers reviewed were published after 1976 and were found in the Medline database. Additional information has been obtained in response to requests addressed to scientists with high reputation from different parts of the world working in the field of trace element analysis. The evaluation system includes separate grade scales for sampling and chemical analysis. In no case were the requirements justifying the highest Grade 1 i.e. superior quality, fulfilled. Most reports suffered from various degrees of a lack of information concerning description of individuals, diet, experimental design or analytical and statistical treatment. Nineteen papers were rejected because of insufficient information or obvious erroneous sampling or analytical treatment (Part I). The influence on blood mercury level of various non-occupational exposures, particularly fish consumption, but also medication with mercury-containing drugs, presence of amalgam restorations, etc., has been surveyed. The levels have been systematized according to such parameters. The evaluated and systematized data have been stored in a PC database "Tracy", which includes information about concentrations of total, inorganic or organic mercury in whole blood, blood cells or plasma. Mercury in maternal-cord blood is also included. One hundred and thirty-two data sets from 79 reports were included in the database (Part II). Because of the shortcomings of the available information, only tentative reference values for mercury in whole blood, blood cells and plasma were established (Part III). There is an obvious need for additional high-quality data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mercury / blood*
  • Methods
  • Plasma / chemistry
  • Reference Values
  • Research / standards


  • Mercury