Challenge: to come up with ideas for an affordable screening kit to test methyl mercury levels in your body

  1. Ideas Nov 12 - Jan 23
  2. Inspiration for ideas Oct 17
  3. Concepts Jan 24 - Feb 13
  4. Jury Feb 14 - Feb 19
  5. Winner Feb 20

Dithizone-based self-test (urine/saliva)


Hi everyone, first of all great initiative, thanks to you Peter and the Enviu team for shedding light on and creating awareness for an issue often neglected but highly relevant!

After having a look around the web, I came across this self-test that can be used at home, based on the so-called "dithizone process".

Here a quote from a website describing it quite well:

"In 1925 Helmut Fischer of the Siemens Concern in Berlin succeeded in detecting heavy metal ions by means of a dithizone process. As a reagent, dithizone is able to indicate the presence of heavy metal ions in qualitative and in quantitative terms. In binding with them, colored complexes are formed in the interior of the molecule which are soluble in non polar organic solvents. The coloration of these solutions is very intensive, its particular coloration determined by the atomic radius of the respective metal present in the complex.

The reaction times of the heavy metal ions vary; therefore, depending on their respective concentrations, different colorations may occur from which one can, in addition to the qualitative conclusions (the dithizone reagent binds to Cu, Zn, Cd, Hg, Pb, Mn, Co, Ni,) also semi-quantitative ones regarding the contaminant. (At the lower ppm level, even at the ppb level).

The dithizone heavy metal reagent allows the detection of free heavy metal ions in bodily liquids like urine and saliva . By administering the test reagent as an exploratory measure, contaminations from amalgam fillings or from the environment (cadmium, lead, zinc, copper, manganese, nickel and cobalt - pointing to infections, organ or system disorders) can be identified on the spot, the potential health problem, as well as the need for detoxification before any specific therapy is administered.

The test reagent is therefore an important aid in the decision making process during the initial evaluation and detoxification therapies, recommended as urgent and necessary counter-measures, can be monitored with the test reagent administered.

The dithizone reagent can also be used to determine the environmental sources of the contamination in aqueous solutions such as tap water and since all heavy metal ions are water soluble, solids like food items, porcelain dishes, dust samples from carpets, wall paints and wall paper etc. can be tested for heavy metals by soaking them in distilled water beforehand.

In other words, in addition to being a diagnostic tool for urine and saliva, the reagent is also useful to find contamination causes in the patient's environment." Source:

There is a plethora of website across different countries selling little sets for around 14USD, 19Euro (depending on where you look), all utilizing this method.

Here a selection:

1. (including a nice German description on how to use it: )

Netherlands: 1.



United States:

Have you come across this one yet Peter? Seems quite easy to use, and affordable at that!

All the best,



On November 15, 2012 21:58

No - this one is new to me. Nice find.

On November 16, 2012 14:13

Hi Vincent,

Seems to be a good method!
We are looking for an assay based on the same principle.
To react with heavy metal, the reagent needs the metal to be free (that means it reacts with ion form). So, for mercury, the problem is that in urine, their is mainly the inorganic form (HgCl2 as example).
For methyl mercury (CH3-Hg), it's a bit more complicated. It's accumulation in organs is important (Brain, Muscles, Hair...) and is metabolized in the liver to be excreted under the inorganic form.
In our situation, samples analysed (hair) must be mashed to free methyl mercury into the solution and then it can react with the reagent.
So one solution would be to create a similar method including a hair degradation step to free methyl mercury.


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