Symptoms of Intoxication in Dentists Associated with Exposure to Low Levels of Mercury

The findings of this study collectively indicate that occupational exposure to mercury, even at low levels, is associated with a significant increase in the prevalence of symptoms of intoxication. Additionally, they provide circumstantial evidence in favour of the notion that the current value of TLV of this metal do not provide sufficient protection against the appearance of neuropsychological symptoms. Finally they may cast doubt on the appropriateness of current value of BEI, per-se, as a sensitive means for biomonitoring of mercury exposed individuals


Masoud Neghab, Alireza Choobineh, Jafar Hassan Zadeh and Ebrahim Ghaderi

Symptoms of Intoxication in Dentists Associated with Exposure to Low Levels of Mercury 
Ind Health 2011; 49 (2): 249-54 



The present study examined the effects of occupational exposure of a group of dentists to low levels of mercury. The study population consisted of 106 dentists and 94 general practitioners (referent group), from private and public clinics in Shiraz city. Subjects were requested to complete a questionnaire on demographic variables, suspicious symptoms of intoxication and work practices. Additionally, atmospheric and urinary concentrations of mercury were measured by Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy technique. The data were analysed by χ(2) test, independent sample t-test and multivariate logistic regression analysis, where applicable. Both groups were similar as far as most demographic and socioeconomic variables, but age and number of personal amalgam fillings, were concerned. Median of atmospheric concentration of mercury was found to be 3.35 μg/m(3). Likewise, the urinary concentration of mercury in dentists was estimated to be 3.16 μg/g creatinine. This value was significantly higher than that of the referent group. Similarly, analysis of the data revealed that neuropsychological, muscular, respiratory, cardiovascular and dermal symptoms were more prevalent in dentists. Our findings indicate that occupational exposure of dentists to mercury, even at low levels, is associated with a significant increase in the prevalence of symptoms of intoxication.


(Industrial Health is a scientific journal published by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health in Japan.)


Bernardino Ramazzini: Father of Occupational Medicine

Bernardino Ramazzini (1633 – 1714) was an Italian physician. He was an early proponent of the use of cinchona bark (from which quinine is derived) in the treatment of Malaria.

His most important contribution to medicine was his book on occupational diseases, De Morbis Artificum Diatriba (Diseases of Workers). This book outlined the health hazards of chemicals, dust, metals, repetitive or violent motions, odd postures, and other disease-causative agents encountered by workers in 52 occupations. This was one of the founding and seminal works of occupational medicine and played a substantial role in its development.

Ramazzini gave in his book De Morbis Artificum Diatriba also one of the earliest descriptions of the consequences of inhalation of vaporized mercury. Studies indicate that members of the dental profession and workers in the furor felt hat-making industry have been at greatest risk for exposure to mercury (Jung & Aaronson).

Ramazzini proposed that physicians should extend the list of questions that Hippocrates recommended they ask their patients by adding, “What is your occupation?”. Bernardino Ramazzini is often called “the father of occupational medicine”. He is recognized as one of the greatest scientific intellects of the seventeenth century.


Read More

Hook GER. Ramazzini: Father of Environmental Health? Environmental Health Perspectives 1995; 103 (11): 982-3.

Jung RC, Aaronson J. Death following inhalation of mercury vapor at home. West J Med 1980; 132: 539-543.

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