Mercury, Urine and Blood

Other names: Mercury; Hg

Mercury is an element, which is present in several different environments in a variety of forms, including liquid and gaseous mercury (vapour) and organic and inorganic compounds. In very small amounts, mercury is not harmful to humans; however, over-exposure can be very dangerous. Some people are exposed to mercury on a regular basis through their occupation; they will usually have regular tests to check that they do not have toxic levels of mercury in their blood. Mercury can be particularly damaging to pregnant women, as they can pass it on to their unborn child and this can cause problems with their development and growth.

Why is the test used?

The test is used to measure the level of mercury in the blood; in most cases, the test is used to check for toxic levels of mercury, but it can also be used as a routine test for people who are exposed to mercury on a regular basis due to their work (for example, people who work in waste disposal).

The test is usually ordered when a patient has symptoms of exposure to mercury; these include:

  • Coughing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Burning sensation in the lungs and mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Rapid heart rate

People who are exposed to mercury on a regular basis may suffer from chronic symptoms, which include hearing and visual problems, problems with walking, tingling in the legs, tremors and irritability.

How is the test done?

The test is done by taking a sample of blood from a vein in the patient’s arm; a needle is inserted into the vein and the blood is drawn out and collected in a syringe. Once the sample has been collected, it will be placed in a sample bottle, sealed, labelled with the patient’s name and sent away to the laboratory for evaluation.

A 24 hour urine sample and a sample of hair may also be taken for testing.

What do the test results mean?

If the test results show that levels of blood mercury are normal, it is unlikely that the patient has been exposed to mercury.

If levels of mercury are high (in the blood or the urine), this usually means that the patient has been exposed to mercury.

Low levels are not considered a cause for concern as mercury is not essential for bodily function.

Exposure to mercury is now less common, as environmental agencies and governments have enforced measures to reduce exposure to mercury. Mercury can be dangerous for developing babies so doctors advise pregnant women to avoid eating foods which are high in mercury, such as swordfish, shark and king mackerel.

Specific Blood Tests

© Medic8® | All Rights Reserved