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Braz J Med Biol Res. 2007 Mar;40(3):425-33.

Neuropsychological dysfunction related to earlier occupational exposure to mercury vapor.

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1
Instituto de Psicologia e Núcleo de Neurociências e Comportamento, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade de São Paulo, Av. Prof. Mello Moraes 1721, 05508-900 São Paulo, SP, Brazil. elainez@usp.br

Abstract

We assessed the neuropsychological test performances of 26 patients (mean age = 41.5 +/- 6.1 years; mean years of education = 9.8 +/- 1.8; 20 males) diagnosed with chronic occupational mercurialism who were former workers at a fluorescent lamp factory. They had been exposed to elemental mercury for an average of 10.2 +/- 3.8 years and had been away from this work for 6 +/- 4.7 years. Mean urinary mercury concentrations 1 year after cessation of work were 1.8 +/- 0.9 microg/g creatinine. Twenty control subjects matched for age, gender, and education (18 males) were used for comparison. Neuropsychological assessment included attention, inhibitory control, verbal and visual memory, verbal fluency, manual dexterity, visual-spatial function, executive function, and semantic knowledge tests. The Beck Depression Inventory and the State and Trait Inventory were used to assess depression and anxiety symptoms, respectively. The raw score for the group exposed to mercury indicated slower information processing speed, inferior performance in psychomotor speed, verbal spontaneous recall memory, and manual dexterity of the dominant hand and non-dominant hand (P < 0.05). In addition, the patients showed increased depression and anxiety symptoms (P < 0.001). A statistically significant correlation (Pearson) was demonstrable between mean urinary mercury and anxiety trait (r = 0.75, P = 0.03). The neuropsychological performances of the former workers suggest that occupational exposure to elemental mercury has long-term effects on information processing and psychomotor function, with increased depression and anxiety also possibly reflecting the psychosocial context.

PMID:
17334541
DOI:
10.1590/s0100-879x2007000300019
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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