Metalic Mercury toxicity

arie_ at hotmail.com arie_ at hotmail.com
Fri Sep 24 18:12:37 EST 1999

On Fri, 24 Sep 1999 11:50:36 -0700, "T. Lewandowski"
<tlewando at u.washington.edu> wrote:

>> If you're referring to Karen Wetterhahn, the compound was methyl mercury,
>> not mercury itself.  I make the distinction because there is a difference
>> in the degree and kind of safety precautions required to work with the two
>> compounds, and because they are often confused in casual discussions of
>> metal toxicity.
>In fact, the compound was dimethylmercury, a particularly lipophillic and
>readily absorbed form of mercury. As part of a group that works with
>(mono)methylmercury, we were quite interested in the case. The
>point that the form of mercury (and route of exposure) drastically affects
>the toxicity is a good one though.  Apparently a single drop or two of
>dimethylmercury absorbed through the gloves was enough to fatally poison
>Dr. Wetterhahn whereas people have swallowed small amounts of elemental
>mercury (e.g., from broken thermometers) without any apparent injury.
>However, elemental mercury vapor, if inhaled, can be exceptionally toxic.

This 'exceptionally' toxicity, can you quantify that?


>T. Lewandowski
>University of Washington
>Dept. Environmental Health

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