Blood and Urine Inorganic and Organic Mercury Levels in the United States from 1999 to 2016

Siu Chung Anson So, Man Fung Tsoi, Adrian Justin Cheung, Tommy Tsang Cheung, Bernard M.Y. Cheung (Corresponding)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Mercury is an environmental hazard. Organic mercury is biologically more toxic than inorganic mercury. Therefore, we studied recent trends in the blood levels of organic and inorganic mercury in the United States. Methods: A total of 56,445 participants that had blood mercury and urine mercury measurements in National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2016 were included. The organic mercury level was obtained by subtracting the inorganic mercury level from the total mercury level. Results were analyzed using SPSS complex sample module version 25. Pregnant women, children ages <20 years, and different ethnicities were analyzed as subgroups. Results: Blood organic mercury level increased from (geometric mean [95% confidence interval]) 0.08 [0.07-0.10] to 0.17 [0.16-0.18] µg/L during 1999-2016. It increased significantly (P <0.001) from 0.03 [0.02-0.03] to 0.07 [0.06-0.07] µg/L in children ages <20 and from 0.14 [0.09-0.21] to 0.36 [0.16-0.83] µg/L in pregnant women in this period (P <0.001). In 2013-2016, non-Hispanic Asians had the highest blood organic mercury level among different ethnicities, 0.93 [0.82-1.05] µg/L (P <0.001). Blood inorganic mercury level decreased from 0.31 [0.31-0.31] in 1999-2000 to 0.21 [0.21-0.22] µg/L in 2015-2016 (P <0.001). Urine mercury level decreased from 0.75 [0.71-0.80] in 1999-2000 to 0.16 [0.16-0.17] µg/L in 2015-2016 (P <0.001). Conclusion: Blood organic mercury increased over the period 1999-2016 in the US population, including children and pregnant women, whereas there was a steady decline in both blood inorganic mercury and urine mercury levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e20-e30
JournalAmerican Journal of Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Mercury
  • Methylmercury
  • National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)


Dive into the research topics of 'Blood and Urine Inorganic and Organic Mercury Levels in the United States from 1999 to 2016'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this