Levels of selenium and antioxidative enzymes following occupational exposure to inorganic mercury

Sci Total Environ. 1990 Dec 1;99(1-2):37-47. doi: 10.1016/0048-9697(90)90208-c.


Levels of selenium and mercury in blood and urine were analysed in 37 male workers exposed to elemental mercury vapour in a chloralkali plant and in 39 unexposed controls of the same age. Mean urinary Hg was 223 nmol l-1 (15 nmol/mmol creatinine) in the exposed group and 26 nmol l-1 (2.0 nmol/mmol creatinine) in the controls. Mean blood and plasma Hg levels were 46 and 36 nmol l-1, respectively, in the exposed group, as compared with 17 and 7 nmol l-1 in the controls. The concentrations of Se in plasma and erythrocytes did not differ between the two groups. Urinary Se levels were, however, slightly but significantly lower in the exposed group (median values 23 vs 29 nmol/mmol creatinine), and there was a negative correlation between urinary Se and plasma Hg in the exposed group. This may be due to a retention of Se in the kidneys. In a subgroup of exposed workers and controls, glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase and catalase were also analysed. No differences were found between the groups with respect to these antioxidative enzymes. The effect on Se status of moderate Hg exposure seems to be of minor clinical importance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Erythrocytes / chemistry
  • Erythrocytes / enzymology
  • Glutathione Peroxidase / blood*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mercury / blood*
  • Mercury / urine
  • Mercury Poisoning / blood
  • Mercury Poisoning / etiology
  • Mercury Poisoning / urine
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Reference Values
  • Selenium / blood*
  • Selenium / urine
  • Superoxide Dismutase / blood*


  • Glutathione Peroxidase
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Mercury
  • Selenium