We tested the hypothesis that intravenous ascorbic acid increases urinary excretion of mercury in subjects with low mercury levels from dental amalgam, food, and other sources. From 89 adult volunteers we selected 28 subjects with the highest mercury excretions (2 to 14 micrograms/24 h). We administered intravenous infusions of 500 ml lactated Ringer's solution with and without addition of 750 mg of ascorbic acid/kg body weight, up to 60 g ascorbic acid. Average mercury excretion during the 24 h after infusion of ascorbic acid was 4.0 +/- 0.5 micrograms (mean +/- SEM), which was not significantly more than after infusion of Ringer's solution alone (3.7 +/- 0.5 micrograms). Lead excretion was similarly unaffected. If ascorbic acid administered intravenously benefits some persons with suspected adverse reactions to mercury, the benefit in subjects similar to ours appears unrelated to short-term enhanced excretion of mercury or lead.