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Acute mercurial pneumonitis

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Milne, J., Christophers, A., and de Silva, Pamela (1970).Brit. J. industr. Med.,27, 334-338. Acute mercurial pneumonitis. Mercury vapour has been shown to cause acute effects on the lung when inhaled in high concentrations. Four men, exposed to mercury inside a tank, developed, hours later, signs and symptoms of an acute febrile illness with severe pulmonary irritation, characterized by fever, rigors, cough, dyspnoea, and tightness in the chest. A review of the literature revealed that this syndrome had been described and investigated previously in fewer than 20 cases during the past 40 years, and is apparently little known. Fatalities have been described, particularly in children, and necropsy evidence has consistently revealed the pattern of an acute diffuse interstitial pneumonitis, accompanied by profuse fibrinous exudation and erosion of the bronchial and bronchiolar lining. The two common features in all reports are the heating of mercury or the entering into a confined space, or both. Adequate respiratory protection by an efficient air-supplied respirator is mandatory in industrial circumstances of the kind described in this report.

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