Blood and urine mercury levels in adult amalgam patients of a randomized controlled trial: Interaction of Hg species in erythrocytes

Parts of the population are permanently exposed to low levels of Hg° and Hg(II) from dental amalgam. It was the aim (1) to investigate the internal exposure to amalgam-related mercury from the kinetics of inorganic Hg in plasma and erythrocytes after amalgam removal, and (2) to estimate the amalgam-related absorbed dose. Dietary coexposure was monitored by determination of blood organic-Hg. Postremoval steady-state Hg concentrations were measured for 18 months. Eighty-two patients had been randomized into three groups: (A) removal of the fillings; (B) removal and non-specific detoxification, and (C) a health promotion program without removal. After amalgam removal, inorganic Hg dropped rapidly in plasma and red cells, stabilizing at 27% of preremoval levels after 60 days. Concentrations of organic Hg in plasma remained unchanged, indicating no change in dietary uptake of organic Hg. The concentration of organic Hg in red cells of group A was in the early postremoval phase lower and in the late postremoval phase higher than the preremoval control (p<0.01 for low-high difference). A protracted increase in organic Hg was also found in red cells of group B after 60 days. Thus, the effect of removal on organic Hg levels in the combined group A+B was compared with the values of group C in a linear mixed effects (LME) model which showed a significant increase with time in group A+B (p=0.028). In all groups, time profiles of urinary concentration and excretion of total-Hg were very similar to those of inorganic-Hg levels in plasma. From extrapolations of blood and urine data it was estimated that the amalgam-related inhalation and ingestion of Hg species were within the limits proposed by WHO, ATSDR and EPA. The integrated daily Hg dose absorbed from amalgam was estimated up to 3μg for an average number of fillings and at 7.4 for a high amalgam load.

This is the first study on adult amalgam patients which continuously monitored the postremoval decline of inorganic Hg and the coexposure from dietary organic Hg in a randomized-controlled-trial design. The integrated daily dose of 7.4 μg absorbed from a high amalgam load is well below the tolerable dose of 30 μg (WHO, 1990). The unexpected postremoval increase in erythrocyte organic Hg, which is associated with the depletion of cellular inorganic Hg, might result from binding of organic Hg to cellular sites previously occupied by inorganic Hg.


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