Chronic low-level mercury exposure and neuropsychological functioning

J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 1986 Oct;8(5):581-93. doi: 10.1080/01688638608405177.


To measure the effects of chronic low-level exposure to inorganic mercury, the neuropsychological performances of 13 female dental auxiliary workers with elevated head mercury levels (as measured by an X-ray fluorescence technique) were compared with 13 workers with no measurable mercury levels. Workers with elevated mercury levels scored significantly less well on the Recurrent Figures, and SCL-90-R, but not on the WAIS, Rey's AVL, PASAT, BGT, Grooved Pegboard, and Finger Tapping tests. Chronic subtoxic levels of inorganic mercury appear to produce mild changes in short-term nonverbal recall and heightened distress generally, and particularly in categories of obsessive compulsion, anxiety and psychoticism, without alterations in general intellectual functioning, attention, verbal recall, and motor skills.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Dental Auxiliaries
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Emotions / drug effects
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Processes / drug effects*
  • Mercury / adverse effects*
  • Mercury / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills / drug effects*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Spectrometry, X-Ray Emission


  • Mercury