An electrophysiological evaluation was made of the ulnar nerve in 18 men who were exposed to elemental mercury (7439976) vapor in the course of their jobs at a mercury cell chlorine plant. The men averaged 31 years of age, ranging from 19 to 56. Urinary mercury levels were determined routinely at this facility and were thus available for 3 years prior to the evaluation of the ulnar nerve. Conventional techniques were used to measure compound muscle action potential and sensory nerve action potential (SNAP) negative peak amplitudes, motor and sensory distal latency, and maximum motor conduction velocity. Abnormal nerve conduction studies were obtained in five subjects, with three having prolonged sensory distal latency, one having prolonged motor distal latency and one having both prolonged motor and sensory distal latencies with a low normal SNAP amplitude. Over half of the mercury levels were significantly higher in this abnormal group. The highest correlation obtained was between sensory latency and the number of months urine mercury exceeded 0.50 milligrams/liter. The authors conclude that exposure to elemental mercury can affect both motor and sensory peripheral nerve conduction and that the degree of involvement can be related to time integrated urine mercury levels.
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