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Dental Amalgam and Mercury Levels in Autopsy Tissues: Food for Thought.

Eighteen cadavers from routine autopsy casework were subject to a study of tissue levels of total mercury in brain, thyroid, and kidney samples by atomic absorption. On these same cadavers, all dental amalgam fillings (the most important source of inorganic mercury exposure in the general population, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) were charted.

Total mercury levels were significantly higher in subjects with a greater number of occlusal amalgam surfaces (>12) compared with those with fewer occlusal amalgams (0-3) in all types of tissue (all P <= 0.04). Mercury levels were significantly higher in brain tissues compared with thyroid and kidney tissues in subjects with more than 12 occlusal amalgam fillings (all P <= 0.01) but not in subjects with 3 or less occlusal amalgams (all P >= 0.07).