E Minamata disease Q&A

Mercury in the environment

Q4: What form of mercury is easily absorbed from the small intestine?

A4: Among naturally existing mercury, methylmercury is most easily absorbed.

Commentary:
There are three mercury species in the environment, metallic mercury, inorganic mercuric salt, and methylmercury.
Methylmercury is easily absorbed from the small intestine.
On the other hand, inorganic mercuric salt is absorbed by only a few percent.
Absorption of metallic mercury is very low, but it may cause poisoning because it easily vaporizes and nearly 80% of the vapor is absorbed from the lungs when inhaled.