Mercury concentrations in urine and whole blood associated with amalgam exposure in a US military population

J Dent Res. 1998 Mar;77(3):461-71. doi: 10.1177/00220345980770030501.


Minute amounts of mercury vapor are released from dental amalgams. Since mercury vapor is known to be associated with adverse health effects from occupationally exposed persons, questions regarding the margin of safety for exposure to mercury vapor in the general population continue to be raised. To address this issue, one needs information regarding exposure to mercury vapor from dental amalgam fillings and its possible consequences for health in the general population. The NIDR Amalgam Study is designed to obtain precise information on amalgam exposure and health outcomes for a non-occupationally-exposed population of US adults. One hypothesis was that in a generally healthy population a significant association between amalgam exposure and Hg levels in urine and/or whole blood could be detected. The cohort investigated was an adult military population of 1127 healthy males. Their average age was 52.8 years, and their ages varied from 40 to 78 years. Ninety-five percent of the study participants were white males, and slightly over 50% had some college education. Five percent were edentulous. The dentate participants, on average, had 25 natural teeth, 36.9 decayed or filled surfaces (DFS), and 19.9 surfaces exposed to amalgam, with amalgam exposure varying from 0 to 66 surfaces. Their average total and inorganic urinary mercury concentrations were 3.09 microg/L and 2.88 microg/L. The average whole-blood total and inorganic mercury concentrations were 2.55 microg/L and 0.54 microg/L. Significant correlations were detected between amalgam exposure and the total (r = 0.34, p < 0.001) and inorganic 0.34 (r = 0.34, p < 0.001) urinary mercury concentrations on the original scale. Stronger correlations were found for total (r = 0.44, p < 0.001) and inorganic (r = 0.41, p < 0.001) urinary Hg on the log scale, as well as for creatinine-corrected total (r = 0.43, p < 0.001) and inorganic (r = 0.43, p < 0.001) urine concentrations. In whole blood, statistically significant, but biologically weak, correlations were detected for total (r = 0.09, p = 0.005) and inorganic (r = 0.15, p < 0.001) Hg concentrations, respectively. Based on these cross-sectional data, it is estimated that, on average, each ten-surface increase in amalgam exposure is associated with an increase of 1 microg/L mercury in urine concentration.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • DMF Index
  • Dental Amalgam*
  • Dental Restoration, Permanent
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Mercury / blood*
  • Mercury / urine*
  • Middle Aged
  • Military Personnel
  • Quality Control
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Dental Amalgam
  • Mercury