What factors determine the severity of health effects from mercury exposure?
People in the U.S. are mainly exposed to methylmercury, an organic compound, when they eat fish and shellfish that contain methylmercury. Whether an exposure to the various forms of mercury will harm a person's health depends on a number of factors. Almost all people have at least trace amounts of methylmercury in their tissues, reflecting methylmercury's widespread presence in the environment and people's exposure through the consumption of fish and shellfish. People may be exposed to mercury in any of its forms under different circumstances. The factors that determine how severe the health effects are from mercury exposure include these
- the chemical form of mercury;
- the dose;
- the age of the person exposed (the fetus is the most susceptible);
- the duration of exposure;
- the route of exposure -- inhalation, ingestion, dermal contact, etc.; and
- the health of the person exposed.