Mercury is a naturally occurring heavy metal that can be found in some fish or burning coal. In the past, mercury was used to make products such as thermometers. Mercury exposure can be caused in several ways, from polluted air or water, eating fish high in mercury, or working in an environment that contains high levels of mercury. Being exposed to too much mercury can damage the brain, immune system, heart and lungs.

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What is a mercury blood test?

A mercury blood test determines if you recently were exposed to toxic levels of mercury. It identifies levels of mercury in the blood. The test must be given within three days of exposure.

Early detection of mercury poisoning is important so you can begin treatment immediately to prevent or decrease the effects of mercury.

What are symptoms of mercury poisoning?

Signs of mercury poisoning depend on how you were exposed and for how long. Symptoms of mercury toxicity include:

  • Chills or fever
  • Difficulty breathing and chest tightness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea or abdominal cramps
  • Burning in the throat and lungs
  • Difficulty urinating

Symptoms of long-term mercury exposure include:

  • Memory loss
  • Sensory problems in hearing, smell and taste
  • Soft gums around the teeth
  • Fine tremors of the hand or tongue, or tingling in arms and legs
  • Changes in mood
  • Vision problems
  • Other abnormal sensations

If you think you may have come in contact with high levels of mercury, ask a healthcare provider if you need mercury testing.

Mercury blood tests can also be ordered to monitor those who work in environments that may contain mercury and other heavy metals.

What should you expect with a mercury blood test?

Blood testing must be done within three days of suspected exposure. A healthcare provider will collect a blood sample to send to a lab for testing.

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