For a number of years we have observed six patients whose illness 1began after inhaling high concentrations of mercury vapor in a single exposure. They all had symptoms of acute mercury poisoning with fever, chills, chest pain, and weakness. Three men had diffuse pulmonary infiltrates on chest x-ray suggesting chemical pneumonitis. Two of the men excreted large amounts of mercury in their urine two days after exposure following BAL therapy. Their chronic symptoms differed somewhat, but many complained of nervousness, irritability, lack of ambition, and loss of sexual desire. Chronic mercury poisoning is generally felt to follow only long periods of exposure. Although these patients had symptoms which are not pathognomonic of chronic mercury poisoning, we feel the events described strongly suggest their relationship to a single brief exposure and represent a form of chronic mercurialism.
©1978 The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine