Demonstration of mercury in the human brain and other organs 17 years after metallic mercury exposure

Clin Neuropathol. 1996 May-Jun;15(3):139-44.


A male subject became exposed to metallic mercury vapor at work in 1973. He excreted 1,850 mg Hg/l urine initially. Controls of urine mercury excretion after D-penicillamine administration led to the assumption of a total body clearance of mercury latest since 1976. Subsequently he developed an organic psychosyndrome without detectable signs of classical mercurialism. He never returned to work again and died of lung cancer in 1990. In different organs (brain, kidney, and lung) which were sampled at autopsy elevated levels of mercury were documented by atomic absorption analysis. Histological examination of the tissue by the Danscher and Schroder method, which is specific for mercury, showed a highly positive staining in the majority of nerve cells and cells of other organs. Ultrastructurally mercury could be demonstrated by elemental x-ray analysis within lipofuscin deposits. The lipofuscin content was increased in the mercury positive nerve cells as demonstrated by a strong positive autofluorescence.

MeSH terms

  • Cerebellar Cortex / chemistry*
  • Cerebellar Cortex / pathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / chemistry*
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Electron Probe Microanalysis
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mercury Poisoning / metabolism*
  • Mercury Poisoning / pathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Specificity
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Time Factors