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Urinary excretion of mercury after occupational exposure to mercury vapour and influence of the chelating agent meso-2,3-dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA).
  1. H A Roels,
  2. M Boeckx,
  3. E Ceulemans,
  4. R R Lauwerys
  1. Industrial Toxicology and Occupational Medicine Unit, School of Medicine, Catholic University of Louvain, Brussels, Belgium.

    Abstract

    The spontaneous and chelator mediated excretion of mercury in urine was investigated in male subjects occupationally exposed to mercury vapour (alkaline battery and chloralkali plants) who did not exhibit any sign of kidney damage. The time course of the spontaneous elimination of mercury in urine was examined in seven workers (age 22-40) who had been removed from exposure to mercury vapour (average duration of exposure 4.4 years) because their urinary mercury concentrations repeatedly exceeded 100 micrograms/g creatinine. The post exposure observation period started 10 to 29 days after the date of removal and lasted about 300 days (slow HgU elimination phase). For each worker, the kinetics of the spontaneous HgU decline followed a first order process; the biological half life ranged from 69 to 109 days (mean 90 days). The increased urinary excretion of mercury after a single oral administration of 2 g meso-2,3-dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) was investigated in 16 control workers (group A; age 23 to 49), in 11 workers removed from exposure for at least two years (group B; age 27 to 41), and in 16 workers currently exposed to mercury vapour (group C; age 21 to 58). In group C, the DMSA experiment was repeated twice (three weeks before and three weeks after a holiday) after measures had been taken to reduce the mercury emission. The urinary mercury excretion was significantly higher during the 24 hours after DMSA administration in all groups compared with that in the 24 hours before. The bulk (50-70%) of the DMSA stimulated mercury excretion appeared within the first eight hours. In each group, the amount of mercury (microgram Hg/24h) excreted after DMSA was significantly correlated with that before administration of DMSA. The groups whose exposure had ceased, however, exhibited much higher correlation for coefficients (r=0.97 for group B and 0.86 for group C after three weeks of holiday) than those currently exposed to mercury vapour (r-0.66 for group C before and 9.58 after reduction of exposure). The data suggest that after a few days of cessation of occupational exposure to mercury vapour the HgU before and after administration of DMSA mainly reflects the amount of mercury stored in the kidney, which represents a mercury pool with a slow turnover.

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