A cluster of pediatric metallic mercury exposure cases treated with meso-2,3-dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA)

Joel Forman, Jacqueline Moline, Elsa Cernichiari, Sammi Sayegh, J. Carlos Torres, Mary M. Landrigan, Jean Hudson, Harold N. Adel, Philip J. Landrigan

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Nine children and their mother were exposed to vapors of metallic mercury. The source of the exposure appears to have been a 6-oz vial of mercury taken from a neighbor's home. The neighbor reportedly operated a business preparing mercury-filled amulets for practitioners of the Afro-Caribbean religion Santeria. At diagnosis, urinary mercury levels in the children ranged from 61 to 1,213 μg/g creatinine, with a geometric mean of 214.3 μg/g creatinine. All of the children were asymptomatic. To prevent development of neurotoxicity, we treated the children with oral meso-2,3-dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA). During chelation, the geometric mean urine level rose initially by 268% to 573.2 μg mercury/g creatinine (p < 0.0005). At the 6-week follow-up examination after treatment, the geometric mean urine mercury level had fallen to 102.1 μg/g creatinine, which was 17.8% of the geometric mean level observed during treatment (p < 0.0005) and 47.6% of the original baseline level (p < 0.001). Thus, oral chelation with DMSA produced a significant mercury diuresis in these children. We observed no adverse side effects of treatment. DMSA appears to be an effective and safe chelating agent for treatment of pediatric overexposure to metallic mercury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-577
Number of pages3
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2000


  • 2,3-Dimercapto-1-propane sulfonic acid
  • Children
  • DMPS
  • DMSA
  • Meso-2,3- dimercaptosuccinic acid
  • Metallic mercury
  • Overexposure
  • Treatment


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