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Irreversible color vision losses in patients with chronic mercury vapor intoxication


This longitudinal study addresses the reversibility of color vision losses in subjects who had been occupationally exposed to mercury vapor. Color discrimination was assessed in 20 Hg-exposed patients (mean age = 42.4 ± 6.5 years; 6 females and 14 males) with exposure to Hg vapor during 10.5 ± 5.3 years and away from the work place (relative to 2002) for 6.8 ± 4.2 years. During the Hg exposure or up to one year after ceasing it, mean urinary Hg concentration was 47 ± 35.4 μg/g creatinine. There was no information on Hg urinary concentration at the time of the first tests, in 2002 (Ventura et al., 2005), but at the time of the follow-up tests, in 2005, this value was 1.4 ± 1.4 μg/g creatinine for patients compared with 0.5 ± 0.5 μg/g creatinine for controls (different group from the one in Ventura et al. (2005)). Color vision was monocularly assessed using the Cambridge Colour Test (CCT). Hg-exposed patients had significantly worse color discrimination (p < 0.02) than controls, as evaluated by the size of MacAdam's color discrimination ellipses and color discrimination thresholds along protan, deutan, and tritan confusion axes. There were no significant differences between the results of the study in Ventura et al. (2005) and in the present follow-up measurements, in 2005, except for worsening of the tritan thresholds in the best eye in 2005. Both chromatic systems, blue-yellow and red-green, were affected in the first evaluation (Ventura et al., 2005) and remained impaired in the follow-up testing, in 2005. These findings indicate that following a long-term occupational exposure to Hg vapor, even several years away from the source of intoxication, color vision impairment remains irreversible.

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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Cláudia Feitosa-Santana, Av. Prof. Mello Moraes, 1721, Bloco A, Sala D9, 05508-900 São Paulo, Brazil. E-mail:
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Visual Neuroscience
  • ISSN: 0952-5238
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