Mercury, Blood


Elemental mercury gives off mercury vapour at room temperature which can be inhaled into the lungs and passed into the blood stream. Elemental mercury can also pass through the skin and into the blood stream. If swallowed, however, liquid mercury is not absorbed out of the stomach. Inorganic mercury compounds can also be inhaled and absorbed through the lungs, may pass through the skin and can be absorbed through the stomach if swallowed. Many inorganic mercury compounds are irritating or corrosive to the skin, eyes and mucus membranes as well. Organic mercury compounds can enter the body readily through all three routes-lungs, skin and stomach. Very high exposures to mercury vapour in the air can cause acute poisoning. Symptoms usually begin with cough, chest tightness, trouble breathing and upset stomach. This may go on to pneumonia, which can be fatal. If the inorganic mercury compounds are swallowed, nausea, vomiting ,diarrhoea and severe kidney damage can occur. Exposure to any form of mercury on a repeated basis, or even from a single, very high exposure can lead to the disease of chronic mercury poisoning.


The mercury blood test measures exposure to all three types (elemental, organic and inorganic) of mercury, but because mercury remains in the bloodstream for only a few days after exposure, the test must be done soon after exposure. Medical monitoring and periodic evaluation of exposed workers is recommended to ensure that these workers are experiencing no adverse effects of potentially hazardous workplace exposures.

Sample Type, Quantity & Conditions

2 ml EDTA Blood Room Temperature

Special Precautions

Normal Range

Adult: < 2.00 μg/L Child: 3 - 14 yrs: Up to 0.8 μg/L < 3 yrs: No reference range available

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