Heavy Metal Biochemical Assessments
Mercury’s recent presence in the body can be assessed with blood and urine samples because the initial half-life of blood mercury elimination is 3 days. The half-life of elimination for whole body mercury is between 60 and 90 days. Generally, the levels of mercury are below 10 mcg per liter in urine and below 40 mcg per liter in blood. Hair analysis can be useful as an estimate of long-term exposure to mercury.
To diagnose acute mercury toxicity, symptoms of respiratory distress are evaluated along with lab evaluation with a complete blood count and differential, serum electrolytes, glucose, liver and renal function tests, and urinalysis. Chest readiography and serial ABG measurements should be used for patients with severe inhalation exposure.
Blood lead levels can assess recent exposure to lead. It’s the primary screening method for lead exposure. It can also be measured with erythrocyte protoporphoryn, but this test is not sensitive enough to determine if children have levels below 25 mcg per deciliter. Because lead later travels to soft tissues and eventually to bones and teeth after several weeks, long-term exposure can be measured in bones and teeth with x-ray techniques.
Cadmium in urine is best for determining level of recent and past exposure in the body. Analysis of hair and nails is not as useful because of factors of contamination from environment. Blood calcium can be useful to determine recent exposure in the body.