Mercury, Urine

Diagnostic Use

Mercury, commonly called quicksilver, is a heavy, mobile liquid metal and is slightly volatile at room temperature. The vapour is readily absorbed through the lungs. Sources of mercury include metallic vapours, mercury salts and the more toxic organic mercury compounds. Metallic mercury (used in gold mining) is particularly dangerous due to mercury vapour being absorbed via the respiratory tract. This danger is increased further when the mercury is heated.
Mercury and its inorganic salts are used in a variety of ways. These include disinfectants, antiseptics and insecticides, and in scientific instruments and processes. Mercury is also used for extracting gold and silver from ores. Organic mercurials are found as antifungal preparations. A continuing source of exposure to mercury which has become a cause for concern is that of dental nurses who use amalgams for fillings in teeth. However, due to advances in dental surgery hygiene and the use of different types of fillings, this is not as significant a problem as it was 15 years ago. Methyl mercury, which is highly toxic, is found in fish and is a major cause for concern in badly polluted waters.
Mercury and its salts can enter the body by inhalation, oral ingestion or absorption. Mercury vapour cannot be absorbed through intact skin but many mercurial compounds can be. It is very toxic and cumulative. In the blood inorganic mercury is found equally in the plasma and red cells, while the alkyl compounds, such as methyl mercury, are concentrated ten to twenty fold in the red cells. The main target organs for mercury are the central nervous system and the kidney. Mercury is excreted in the urine (inorganic and metallic)and faeces(organic) and has a half life in the body of about 70 days. Increased exposure intensifies the symptoms.
Low grade continuous exposure can lead to:
• Inflammation of the mouth, soft gums, loose teeth, excessive salivation, metallic taste and foul breath.
• Tremor (hatter's shakes), particularly when the person is being observed or is in an unfamiliar environment or job.
• Mental and nervous symptoms including behavioural changes, stammering, anxiety, loss of sleep and loss of energy and drive.


Lipids/Trace Metals

Delphic Registration Code


Laboratory Handling


Send to separating if ambient. Send to trace metals if frozen.


Make aliquot for UCRN. Send primary sample to trace metals.

Turnaround Time

2 weeks

Test Code