Health Library

Health Library

Mercury (Urine)

Does this test have other names?

Hg urine

What is this test?

This test measures the amount of mercury in your urine.

Mercury is a heavy metal that can be toxic. It occurs naturally as a liquid at room temperature and as an odorless vapor.

You can be exposed to mercury from polluted air or water, if you work in an industry that still uses mercury, from eating fish that are high in mercury, and from some complementary and alternative health remedies. 

Long-term exposure to mercury can cause kidney and brain damage in adults. Exposure to mercury during pregnancy can cause permanent damage to the developing fetus. Breastfeeding may also expose infants to mercury.

Children who are exposed to mercury can suffer damage to their kidneys, nervous system, and digestive system.

Mercury is also present in silver amalgam dental fillings. Minute amounts of mercury may be absorbed from these fillings, but this amount is not likely to cause health problems.

Why do I need this test?

You may have this test if your doctor suspects that you have mercury poisoning. Symptoms include:

  • Fever

  • Chills

  • Chest tightness

  • Shortness of breath

Inhaling mercury can cause:

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Burning sensation in your mouth

You may also need this test to monitor your safety if it's possible that you could be exposed to mercury at your work. 

You might also have this test if you are having chelation therapy for mercury poisoning. Chelation is a treatment that flushes out and removes toxins from your body. This test finds out whether the treatment is working.

What other tests might I have along with this test?

Your doctor might also order a test to measure mercury levels in your blood. He or she may also test hair from your scalp to measure mercury exposure.

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

Results are given in nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). Urine levels of mercury less than 20 ng/mL are considered safe.

Having some mercury in your urine doesn't necessarily mean you will develop health problems.

High levels of mercury in your urine could mean that you have mercury poisoning and need treatment.

How is this test done?

The test requires a urine sample. Your doctor will tell you how to collect a sample in a sterile container.

This test may use a 24-hour urine sample. For this sample, you must collect all the urine you produce for 24 hours. Empty your bladder completely first thing in the morning without collecting it and note the time. Then collect your urine every time you go to the bathroom for the next 24 hours.

Does this test pose any risks?

This test poses no known risks.

What might affect my test results?

Certain medications and skin-lightening creams that contain mercury can cause your mercury levels to rise. Eating fish and shellfish that contain high levels of mercury can increase your mercury levels.

How do I get ready for this test?

You don't need to prepare for this test.

 

Mercury (Urine) - WellSpan Health

Author: Orenstein, Beth W
Online Medical Reviewer: Marcellin, Lindsey, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Ziegler, Olivia Walton, MS, PA-C
© 2014 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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