The elimination of mercury (Hg) in blood was investigated in 14 chloralkali workers exposed to metallic Hg vapour for 1-24 (median 10) years. Blood and urine samples were collected on several (median eight) occasions during a period of 17-26 days. The initial Hg concentrations were about 80 nmol/l in whole blood (B-Hg) and 17 nmol/mmol creatinine in urine (U-Hg). The decrease in Hg in whole blood, plasma (P) and erythrocytes (Ery) was best characterised by a two compartment model. In a model with a common half life for all subjects, the best fit for B-Hg was obtained with half lives of 3.8 days for a fast phase and 45 days for a slow phase. The half life of the fast phase was shorter for P-Hg than for Ery-Hg, whereas the opposite was the case for the slow phase. The half lives of the slow phases in whole blood and plasma were longer, and the relative fractions of the slow phases were higher (about 50%) after long term exposure than those (about 20%) reported after brief exposure. Slower elimination indicates higher accumulation of Hg in organs with long half lives, and possibly the presence of at least one additional, even slower compartment. The U-Hg fluctuated substantially during the sampling period, and average concentrations decreased only slightly.
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