Epidemiology, clinical presentation, treatment, and follow‐up of chronic mercury poisoning in China: a retrospective analysis

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Abstract

Background: There are no reports on the incidence of chronic mercury poisoning in a large population in China. This study investigated the epidemiology, clinical manifestations, treatment, and follow-up of Chinese patients with chronic mercury poisoning. Methods: Data for 288 mercury poisoning patients were collected at our hospital from July 2014 to September 2019, including sex, age, admission time, blood mercury content, urine mercury content, creatinine, urinary mercury/creatinine ratio, 24-h urinary protein levels, electromyography (EMG) findings, renal biopsy, and follow-up. Patient characteristics were evaluated by statistical and correlation analyses. Results: First, mercury poisoning in China mainly occurred through occupational exposure and the inappropriate use of mercury-containing cosmetics and Chinese folk remedies (CFRs). Second, the most common symptoms were nervous system (50.3 %), kidney (16.4 %) and breathing (8.0 %). Mercury poisoning-induced Nephrotic syndrome (NS) and peripheral neuropathy are common long-term complications. The complications of occupational and cosmetics-induced mercury poisoning are consistent with international belief. However, the NS caused by CFRs is mainly membranous nephropathy and the probability of peripheral neuropathy caused by CFRs is higher than other pathogens. Third, follow-up data shows that 13 patients with EMG-confirmed neurological injury, 10 showed full recovery after 38.50 ± 8.03 months. Furthermore, among 18 patients with NS, 15 had normal urine protein and serum albumin levels after 22.67 ± 10.26 months. Conclusions: Regulation of skin-lightening cosmetic products, safety surveillance of CFRs, and prevention and control of occupational exposure must be improved to decrease the incidence of mercury poisoning in China.

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Yawei, S., Jianhai, L., Junxiu, Z., Xiaobo, P., & Zewu, Q. (2021). Epidemiology, clinical presentation, treatment, and follow‐up of chronic mercury poisoning in China: a retrospective analysis. BMC Pharmacology and Toxicology, 22(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40360-021-00493-y

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