How To Avoid Mercury Exposure & What to Do if It Happens

How To Avoid Mercury Exposure & What to Do if It Happens

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Mercury is a metallic that’s liquid at room temperature and which might be poisonous to people and the surroundings. While mercury is a pure ingredient that’s current in small quantities in the environment, it’s present in some household items and used for industrial functions. Knowing the place it’s possible you’ll discover mercury is step one to avoiding publicity and attainable mercury poisoning.

While Earth911 beforehand printed tips about safe disposal of items containing mercury, this text solutions questions on methods you may get uncovered to mercury, the best way to safely take care of a spill if it occurs, the best way to detect mercury in your house, and what to do for those who suppose you might have mercury poisoning.

Know Where Mercury Shows Up to Avoid It

One of the most common ways to get mercury poisoning is by consuming seafood. The Food and Drug Administration offers guidance on which forms of fish are most secure to eat and the way usually it’s suitable for eating them, primarily based on their mercury ranges. Because fish is an effective dietary alternative, the FDA doesn’t say to keep away from seafood. However, the company advises some constraints for kids and girls who’re pregnant or breastfeeding, as proven within the following chart.

FDA guidance about reducing mercury exposure in seafood

But it’s not simply your weight loss plan you should watch; some gadgets in your house are additionally potential sources of mercury poisoning. Common family merchandise that comprise small quantities of mercury embody compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs), non-digital thermometers, and sure batteries. Get acquainted with the EPA’s list of common mercury-containing products, so you recognize which merchandise pose a danger.

If dealt with appropriately and never damaged, mercury-containing merchandise usually are not harmful. But whilst you can’t get poisoned from the small quantities of mercury contained in home items, in the event that they break or leak, they will put you and your loved ones in danger.

If damaged, CFLs can leak mercury

The mercury in these lightbulbs is a really small quantity, lower than the dimensions of a pinhead. It is in each strong and vapor type. If one breaks in your house the mercury vapors might be hazardous for individuals and pets to breathe. It’s necessary to evacuate the world and clear it up instantly. Learn how to safely clean up a broken CFL to keep away from extra mercury publicity. And ensure you get rid of damaged bulbs correctly.

A damaged thermometer can imply mercury publicity

While newer thermometers don’t comprise mercury, older non-digital ones do. If a mercury thermometer breaks, it’s necessary to wash it up instantly to cut back the chance of poisoning. The mercury might be a silvery liquid that’s simple to establish. It’s necessary to wash it up instantly since it could possibly evaporate into the air.

Button cell batteries comprise mercury and are harmful if swallowed

Since the U.S. Battery Act of 1996 phased out the usage of mercury in alkaline batteries, the most typical family batteries to comprise this poisonous metallic are button cell batteries. These small batteries, which appear like a button, might comprise a small quantity of mercury however any quantity is doubtlessly harmful if swallowed. Always maintain batteries out of kids’s attain and in a dry, sealed container. Make certain to recycle household batteries appropriately since they will comprise heavy metals and different supplies that shouldn’t go into the bottom.

Swallowing an merchandise that incorporates mercury is the most typical technique to get mercury poisoning. But it could possibly additionally occur if the mercury is available in contact along with your pores and skin or from vapors in your house. Any mercury remaining after cleanup can proceed to emit vapors so it’s necessary to wash up all of it.

A Mercury Spill Requires Proper Cleanup

If an merchandise containing mercury breaks or a spill happens in your house, at all times comply with these primary guidelines for cleanup:

  1. Evacuate individuals and pets, and open home windows to air the place out.
  2. Wear a masks and gloves, and by no means contact mercury with naked pores and skin.
  3. Never vacuum mercury; it will increase mercury vapors and publicity. If you might have already tried to hoover up the mercury, take away the vacuum bag instantly and get rid of it with different cleanup supplies at your native household hazardous waste (HHW) location.
  4. Clean up utilizing a moist rag, one thing sticky like packing tape, or scoop it up with a few stiff items of paper.
  5. Seal the mercury and all cleanup supplies right into a zip-close plastic bag and get rid of it at your native HHW drop-off.
  6. In some instances, akin to if the spill is on upholstery or carpet, you may wish to rent an expert cleaner with hazardous waste expertise.

Follow the foundations for correct disposal of mercury with a view to keep away from contamination of soil and consuming water, and elevated dangers to our well being. In some U.S. states and international locations, that is required by regulation. Check along with your native municipality to confirm the best way to get rid of an merchandise containing mercury, or search the Earth911 database for a spot to drop it off in your space.

Broken or not, home items that comprise mercury can’t go in residential trash or recycling. If the product will not be damaged, there may be seemingly a recycling drop-off program in your space, like Home Depot or Best Buy, that recycle CFLs and batteries.

gloved hand holding test tube of blood with "mercury test" on the label.
If you might have been uncovered to mercury and you’re experiencing signs of mercury poisoning, see a physician instantly. Your doctor might order blood and urine assessments to measure ranges in your physique.

How To Test for Mercury in Your Home

Once you might have a mercury spill in your house, you’re prone to poisoning from the vapors, even after you clear it up. Mercury poisoning may cause neurological issues, in addition to quite a few different health issues.

There are two frequent strategies for testing inside air for mercury: a field-portable mercury detector or accumulating an air pattern you ship to an authorized laboratory for evaluation. A field-portable detector is usually used for large industrial spills and might be costly. The least costly methodology is to ship an air pattern to a lab.

  • LCS Laboratory sells residence mercury self-testing kits. Give them particulars on the take a look at you wish to do and they’re going to mail you a equipment to fulfill your wants. Prices vary from $150 to $300, relying in your wants.
  • Mercury Instruments gives detection methods that may sense if there are vapors current. This degree of kit is usually used for industrial functions so it may be costly. You may do higher to discover a native firm to come back out and take a look at the air in your house.
  • This guide, put out by the state of New York, helps decide if you should take a look at the air in your house for mercury and which of the 2 major strategies you must use.

Small mercury leaks from a damaged family product, like a CFL, don’t often require an air high quality take a look at for vapors. You ought to solely fear about testing if one of many following conditions apply:

  • The spill is in an space that’s not simple to ventilate with followers and open home windows.
  • You usually are not sure the place the mercury spilled or how far it unfold.
  • You usually are not certain for those who collected all of the mercury throughout cleanup.
  • The spill was on a porous floor like upholstery or carpet.
  • Someone within the house is exhibiting symptoms of mercury poisoning.

If you’re involved {that a} product in your house could also be leaking mercury, try this residence take a look at equipment:

Pay consideration when shopping for a mercury residence take a look at equipment as many are for testing your faucet water, not the air in your house.

How To Know if You Have Mercury Poisoning

Though it’s uncommon to get mercury poisoning, the most typical method is to swallow it. You may get it by respiration within the vapors, however ventilating after a spill ought to forestall this.

  • gives a house take a look at equipment to detect poisonous components in your physique, together with mercury. Do the take a look at at residence then mail within the samples for outcomes.
  • sells a house testing equipment to detect mercury in your physique. The take a look at requires a urine and blood pattern. You should discover a lab close to you to do the blood draw.

No matter the way you might need been uncovered,  if you’re feeling any symptoms you must see your physician instantly and do a house take a look at to see if there are mercury vapors within the air. If unsure, name poison management at 1-800-222-1222 within the U.S. If you’re not within the U.S., please name your native poison management quantity.