Mercury (Hg) is an element that occurs in inorganic and organic forms. Elemental mercury is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature and is used in thermometers, thermostats, and dental amalgam. The inorganic form of mercury found in mercury salts is poorly absorbed by the human body. The organic form of mercury is found in some fish and in industrial waste. The most common sources of mercury poisoning are from industry through inhalation of mercury vapors from paints and other materials and by direct contact with mercury through broken thermometers or tooth sealants.
Mercury is mainly absorbed by inhalation, but it can also be absorbed through the skin and the gastrointestinal tract. It is then distributed to the central nervous system and kidneys where it is excreted in the urine, with a half-life of up to 25 days.
Signs of chronic mercury poisoning include difficulty concentrating, short-term memory loss, irritability, fatigue, ataxia, muscle spasms, gingivitis, chills, joint pain, and hallucinations. Signs of acute poisoning include cardiovascular shock, kidney failure, and serious damage to the gastrointestinal tract, as well as headache, fever, chills, tremors, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.
In clinical practice, the use of DMPS is effective in mobilizing and excreting bismuth, mercury (organic and inorganic), copper, lead, arsenic, antimony, nickel, tin, tungsten, and gold, but does not affect aluminum or uranium excretion. In the majority of adult patients, mercury is the predominant metal eliminated after using DMPS. DMPS-stimulated metals are mainly excreted by the kidneys and to a much lesser extent by the liver (bile/stool). Another chelating agent for the mobilization of metals by the body, DMSA, is used in challenge tests, as well as for detoxification from lead, mercury, and other sulfhydryl reactive metals (e.g. arsenic, antimony). Several studies have shown the efficacy of DMSA in increasing renal excretion of lead and mercury and in lowering the blood levels of these metals.
How can one determine if one has been exposed to Mercury?
We can measure mercury levels in the blood and most biological materials. Blood mercury measurement is used to evaluate its toxicity, although urine testing is a more accurate test for measuring the body's mercury.
Determination of metals is done by ICP-MS (Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry), a method that enables the simultaneous detection of many metals. Its sensitivity and accuracy are significantly better than conventional atomic absorption, with the ability to measure metals at concentrations up to 1 in 1015 (1 in 1 quadrillion, ppq)!
Laboratory test results are the most important parameter for the diagnosis and monitoring of all pathological conditions. 70%-80% of diagnostic decisions are based on laboratory tests. The correct interpretation of laboratory results allows a doctor to distinguish "healthy" from "diseased".
Laboratory test results should not be interpreted from the numerical result of a single analysis. Test results should be interpreted in relation to each individual case and family history, clinical findings, and the results of other laboratory tests and information. Your personal physician should explain the importance of your test results.
At Diagnostiki Athinon we answer any questions you may have about the test you perform in our laboratory and we contact your doctor to get the best possible medical care.