The Effect of Low Level Mercury Exposure on the Psychological Health of Dental Surgeons

Martinage, David Paul (2001) The Effect of Low Level Mercury Exposure on the Psychological Health of Dental Surgeons. D Clin Psy thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Objectives: To summarise the biological effects of mercury (Hg), and to review the neuropsychological and emotional effects of mercury exposure in adult humans in 44 published group studies. Method: Published articles were identified from indexed computer databases and other journal and textbook articles. Articles were inspected and data summarised in tables reproduced here. Results: At urinary mercury levels (HgU) typical of mild occupational exposure (10-50 mug/l), below most recommended safety limits, about half of the studies examining memory found statistically significant deficits, with the same applying to attentional, motor and perceptual-motor tasks. At HgU above 50 mug/l, deficits also appear in about half the studies examining reasoning and perception. At HgU levels below 10 mug/l, some studies have found deficits, but overall results are inconclusive Self-reports of emotional disturbance using well-standardised questionnaires show effects in about three-quarters of the studies where HgU is below 50 mug/l. Conclusions: Recommended safety limits for mercury exposure may need to be re-examined, regular monitoring of mercury levels should be established for all mercury-exposed workers, and further studies of psychological effects are needed at mercury levels below 10-20 ng/1. There is also a need for longitudinal studies to assess recovery of function after exposure ceases. Main Messages: Mercury affects cognitive, motor and emotional function. Effects are often detectable within current recommended 'safe' levels of excosure. Standardised questionnaires of emotional disturbance, may be more likely to detect effects at low mercury levels than formal performance tests. Policy Implications: Current recommended and legal limits for mercury excposure in the workplace may need to be re-examined, and perhaps lowered. III Regular monitoring of workplace air and workers' body burden of mercury is highly desirable. This applies particularly to dental workers in Scotland, who currently have very infrequent monitoring on a volunteer basis.

Item Type: Thesis (D Clin Psy)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Tom McMillan
Keywords: Clinical psychology, Physiological psychology, Toxicology, Occupational safety
Date of Award: 2001
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2001-75994
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 17:08
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 17:08

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