What is the most deadly form of mercury toxicity?

Updated: Nov 05, 2018
  • Author: David A Olson, MD; Chief Editor: Tarakad S Ramachandran, MBBS, MBA, MPH, FAAN, FACP, FAHA, FRCP, FRCPC, FRS, LRCP, MRCP, MRCS  more...
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Answer

Mercury has 3 forms: (1) elemental mercury, (2) inorganic salts, and (3) organic compounds. Perhaps the most deadly form of mercury is methylmercury. Only 2–10% of the ingested mercury is absorbed from the gut, and ingested elemental mercury is not absorbed at all; however, 90% of any methylmercury ingested is absorbed into the bloodstream from the GI tract. (See the images below.)

This is a 1-view, abdominal, upright radiograph in This is a 1-view, abdominal, upright radiograph in a male patient who intentionally ingested 8 ounces of elemental mercury. Notice how the mercury outlines the large intestine from ascending to descending. Image courtesy of Fred P. Harchelroad, MD, and Ferdinando L. Mirarchi, DO.
Patient with intentional ingestion of mercury from Patient with intentional ingestion of mercury from blood pressure instrument. Note how mercury beads can be seen deposited in lung fields. Image courtesy of Shuchi Vyas, MD.

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