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Table 1 Summary of common forms of mercury, their sources of exposure, major symptoms, and method of excretion with biological half-life

From: The “wing-heeled” traveler

FormSource(s)AbsorptionTarget Organ(s)Signs/SymptomsMajor Excretory PathwayApproximate
Biological Half-Life
Elemental (Hg0)Occupational
Dental Amalgam
Inhalation (vapour)CNS, PNS, KidneyInsomnia, anxiety, tremor, peripheral neuropathy, nephropathyUrine and Feces60 days
Inorganic Hg SaltsTopical antiseptics, cosmetics through disrupted skin/epitheliumIngestion, dermalGut, KidneyNausea, vomiting nephropathyUrine and Feces40 days (typical range 1–3 months)
Methyl HgDiet (fish)IngestionCNSPerioral paresthesia, constriction of visual fields, dysarthria, ataxia, impaired hearing, tremorFeces40–70 days
Ethyl HgThimerosal containing vaccinesParenteralCNS, KidneyAtaxia, paraparesis, deafness, constricted visual fieldsFeces7–20 days
  1. * Adapted from Clarkson TW, Magos L, Myers GJ. The toxicology of mercury – current exposures and clinical manifestations. N. Engl. J. Med. 2003;349:1731–7