How to Clean Up Mercury Spills

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Mercury is one of the most toxic chemicals in the world. It can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. When inhaled, it can cause severe illness and death.

The most dangerous form of mercury is organic mercury, such as dimethylmercury or methylmercury. These poisons are not as toxic as elemental mercury, but they build up in a person’s body and take a long time to disappear from the system. They can also be absorbed through drinking water.

A few examples of organic mercury compounds are calomel (used in electrochemistry), thiomercury salts, and a variety of insecticides. It is also used in fungicides, herbicides and some industrial products like batteries.

Historically, mercury was used in thermometers, barometers and thermostats; in some chemistry experiments; in folk medicine; in silvering mirrors; as a metal in jewelry; and in anti-fouling paints and herbicides. However, some forms of mercury are now considered hazardous and many uses have been banned.

If you find that mercury has spilled on a surface, clean the area as soon as possible. If a broken thermometer or globe contains powdered mercury, place the entire globe or tube in a sealed container to prevent the mercury from coming into contact with other substances in the environment.

When cleaning up a mercury spill, be sure to wear rubber gloves and other protection that will help you avoid inhaling or getting your skin too close to the mercury. When the cleanup is complete, throw away any used sponges, rags, or clothing that you have used to remove the contaminated areas.