MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: Mercury poisoning, how does adipose tissue show the levels of it???

Date: Wed Feb 4 22:25:01 2004
Posted By: Peter Gaul, Grad student, OHS & Environmental Management, company - non educational
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 1072797990.Me

Hi Sarah,

Your question is a little unclear but i'll do my best to answer it.

By your question, I assume you already know much about mercury 
poisoning.  The main problem being the storing of organic mercury 
(methylmercury) in animal tissues (known as bioaccumulation) with each 
exposure.  As predatory animals eat poisoned animals they too store the 
mercury and so on up the food chain.

This increase over time and over trophic levels is called 
biomagnification (in that it becomes greater and greater in higher and 
higher biological forms).  The end result is death or sickness in the top 
predators (including humans).  According to the EPA 
( levels in fish are often 
100,000 times that of the levels found in the water in which they swim.

The part of the body that this mercury is stored is fatty tissues, as you 
have pointed out.  The measurement used to describe the levels of mercury 
is often ppm or parts per million which is equivalent to micrograms of 
mercury to kilograms of body weight.

How the actual testing is done can be found at the following websites

According to Washington State Dept of Health
There are reliable and accurate ways to measure mercury in your body. 
These tests involve taking blood, urine, or hair samples, in a doctor's 
office or in a health clinic. Most tests do not determine the form of 
mercury to which you were exposed. Hair analysis is considered useful for 
exposures to methylmercury, and may yield results for exposures having 
occurred within the past year. Consult your health care provider if you 
would like to learn more about testing for mercury exposure. 

Hope that answers your question or atleast puts you on the right track.

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