Methylmercury contamination of laboratory animal diets

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In the midst of research focusing on the neurodevelopmental effects of mercury vapor in rats, we detected significant levels of mercury (3060 ng/g) in the blood of nonexposed control subjects. We determined that the dominant form of the mercury was organic and that the standard laboratory chow we used in our vivarium was the source of the contamination. The dietary levels were deemed of potential biologic significance, even though they might have fallen below the limits of measurement specified by the supplier. All investigators employing animals in research must assess such potential contamination because dietary agents may alter a) conclusions based on intentionally administered doses, b) outcomes by interacting with other agents that are the primary focus of the research, and c) outcomes of research unrelated to the toxic effects of experimentally administered agents.




Weiss, B., Stern, S., Cernichiari, E., & Gelein, R. (2005). Methylmercury contamination of laboratory animal diets. Environmental Health Perspectives, 113(9), 1120–1122.

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