Percutaneous absorption of mercury vapor by man

Arch Environ Health. 1989 Mar-Apr;44(2):120-7. doi: 10.1080/00039896.1989.9934385.


Five volunteer male subjects who were 24 to 78 y of age exposed the skin of their forearm to mercury vapor (203Hg) at concentrations of 0.88-2.14 ng/cm3 for periods of 27-43 min. Approximately 216 to 844 ng was taken up by the skin at rates of 0.0101 to 0.0402 ng Hg per cm2 per min per ng Hg per cm3 air. About half of the mercury taken up was shed by desquamation of epidermal cells during several weeks. The remainder diffused into the general circulation and could be measured as systemic mercury. When the total skin area (of which the forearm skin was assumed to be representative) was compared to the lung as a route of entry for mercury vapor at the same concentration, the rate of uptake was estimated to be 2.2% of the rate of uptake by the lung. A model is proposed that describes the growth and loss of skin-derived systemic mercury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Burden
  • Feces / analysis
  • Forearm
  • Gases / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mercury / pharmacokinetics*
  • Mercury / urine
  • Mercury Radioisotopes
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin Absorption*
  • Whole-Body Counting


  • Gases
  • Mercury Radioisotopes
  • Mercury