Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mercury Effects


* Routes of Exposure

Exposure to mercury vapor can occur through inhalation, and eye or skin contact.

* Summary of toxicology

1. Effects on Animals: Mercury vapor can damage the kidneys, liver, brain, heart, lungs and colon in experimental animals. It is also mutagenic and can affect the immune system. Rabbits exposed for a single 4 hour period to mercury vapor at a concentration of 28.8 mg/m(3) developed severe damage to the kidneys, liver, brain, heart, lungs, and colon [Clayton and Clayton 1981]. Rabbits exposed to 0.86 mg/m(3) for 6 weeks had significant brain and kidney damage, which resolved on cessation of exposure. Exposure to 6 mg/m(3) mercury vapor caused severe damage to the kidney, heart, lung, and brain of rabbits; however, dogs exposed to 0.1 mg/m(3) for 83 weeks had no microscopic indication of tissue damage [Clayton and Clayton 1981]. Mercury may injure the kidneys through an autoimmune mechanism [ACGIH 1991]. Mercury was mutagenic in eukaryotic cells [ACGIH 1991].

2. Effects on Humans: Mercury vapor can cause effects in the central and peripheral nervous systems, lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes in humans. It is also mutagenic and affects the immune system [Hathaway et al. 1991; Clayton and Clayton 1981; Rom 1992]. Acute exposure to high concentrations of mercury vapor causes severe respiratory damage, while chronic exposure to lower levels is primarily associated with central nervous system damage [Hathaway et al. 1991]. Chronic exposure to mercury is also associated with behavioral changes and alterations in peripheral nervous system [ACGIH 1991]. Pulmonary effects of mercury vapor inhalation include diffuse interstitial pneumonitis with profuse fibrinous exudation [Gosselin 1984]. Glomerular dysfunction and proteinuria have been observed mercury exposed workers [ACGIH 1991]. Chronic mercury exposure can cause discoloration of the cornea and lens, eyelid tremor and, rarely, disturbances of vision and extraocular muscles [Grant 1986]. Delayed hypersensitivity reactions have been reported in individuals exposed to mercury vapor [Clayton and Clayton 1981]. Mercury vapor is reported to be mutagenic in humans, causing aneuploidy in lymphocytes of exposed workers [Hathaway et al. 1991].

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