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Acute mercury vapor poisoning is a rare but fatal toxicological emergency. People are exposed to mercury in daily life by the way of foods, vaccines, antiseptics, ointments, amalgam or occupation. We present here, the clinical picture and management of four members of the same family who were exposed to elemental mercury. Three of the family members were seen in another hospital with malaise, fever, eritematous rash and pulmonary problems. Their questioning revealed the mercury exposure. Having a suspicion of heavy metal intoxication, blood and urine mercury levels were measured and mercury intoxication was diagnosed. On admission to our hospital, two patients already had chelation therapy. In three of them we found three distinct abnormalities: encephalopathy, nephrotic syndrome and polyneuropathy. The fourth family member had minor symptoms. This family is an example for the inhalation exposure resulting from inappropriate handling of liquid mercury. During the first days, flu like illness ensues. Then, severe pulmonary, neurological, renal, hepatic, hematological and dermatological dysfunctions develop. Blood and urine mercury levels should be tested on suspicion, but it must be kept in mind that blood level is unreliable in predicting the severity of mercury toxicity. The priority in the treatment should be removing the patient from the source of exposure. Then British anti-Lewisite, edetate calcium disodium, penicillamine, Sodium 2,3-dimercaptopropane-1-sulfhonate and 2,3-dimercaptosuccinic acid can be used for binding the mercury. We conclude that since mercury-containing devices are present in daily life, physicians must be able to recognize the clinical manifestations and treatment of mercury poisoning.


Serife Gul Oz, Mukaddes Tozlu, Songul Siddika Yalcin, Tumay Sozen, Gulay Sain Guven. Mercury vapor inhalation and poisoning of a family. Inhalation toxicology. 2012 Aug;24(10):652-8

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PMID: 22906171

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