Neurological abnormalities associated with remote occupational elemental mercury exposure

Ann Neurol. 1988 Nov;24(5):651-9. doi: 10.1002/ana.410240510.


We examined 502 subjects, 247 of whom had occupational elemental mercury exposures 20 to 35 years previously, to identify potential exposure-related neurological abnormalities. Few significant (p less than 0.05) differences existed between exposed and unexposed subjects. However, multiple linear regression analysis demonstrated several significant correlations between declining neurological function and increasing exposure as determined by urine mercury measurements from the exposure interval. Subjects with urine mercury peak levels above 0.6 mg/L demonstrated significantly decreased strength, decreased coordination, increased tremor, decreased sensation, and increased prevalence of Babinski and snout reflexes when compared with the remaining subjects. Furthermore, subjects with clinical polyneuropathy had significantly higher peak levels than normal subjects (0.85 vs 0.61 mg/L; p = 0.04), but not increased exposure duration (20.1 vs 20.8 quarters; p = 0.34), and 28% of subjects with peak levels above 0.85 mg/L had clinical evidence of polyneuropathy, compared with 10% of remaining subjects (p = 0.005). Although exposure was not age dependent, several neurological measures showed significant age-mercury interaction, suggesting that natural neuronal attrition may unmask prior exposure-related subclinical abnormalities.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Electrodiagnosis
  • Humans
  • Mercury / toxicity*
  • Mercury / urine
  • Neural Conduction
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Occupational Diseases / diagnosis
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Tremor / chemically induced


  • Mercury