Spills and Safety
When mercury spills in a school or in
a home, there are several possible outcomes-none of
them pleasant. The health of children or students can
be endangered. School may have to be closed up to several
days during cleanup. Cleanup costs can strain already
strained budgets. Liability issues can raise their ugly
heads and a lawsuit or two may even be headed in your
You may believe that the occasional broken
thermometer in science class or student handling of
elemental mercury are essentially harmless--but think
again in light of the above concerns, which have plagued
many schools. Mercury spills at students' homes can
also be serious and what gets spilled at home may be
brought to school, either knowingly or unknowingly.
Couldn't happen in your school or community? Check out
mercury case studies by using the Mercury
Map and clicking on various states. Keep in mind
that these are spills that have been reported--who knows
how many spills go unreported?
Some Important Questions to Ask and
- Have you had a mercury
spill(s) in your school?
- Are you sure that
you would know if there had been a spill?
- Which staff are
responsible for mercury spill management or cleanup?
- Are there mercury
spill kits in all rooms that contain mercury?
- Is staff trained
in how to use these kits?
- Do you know the
do's and don'ts of proper
mercury spill management?
Let's take a quiz!
What would you do if mercury
spilled on the floor in your school?
a) gather it up and put it in the
b) sweep it onto a rigid piece of paper, then
put it in a sealable plastic bag
c) vacuum it up, then place the vacuum bag in
d) any of the above are OK
e) a, b or c will all make a bad situation worse
The correct answer is e. If
you are going to continue to use elemental mercury,
mercury thermometers or other equipment containing mercury
it is critical that staff understands proper
spill management techniques.