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					Suffolk County Department of Health Services 15 Horseblock Place Farmingville, N.Y. 11738 (631) 854-2501

Mercury Spill Cleanup Fact Sheet
Mercury spills can be very hazardous and should be cleaned-up immediately and thoroughly. Small spills, such as glass thermometers, can be safely cleaned-up by the homeowner. Pregnant women, children, and people with kidney problems are at special risk, so clean-up procedures should be handled by others. DO NOT use a household vacuum cleaner or shop-vac to clean up mercury. This will cause the mercury to volatilize, increase airborne concentrations, and may cause the contamination to spread to other areas. In addition, the vacuum cleaner will be contaminated and will have to be thrown away. A flashlight held at an angle, close to the floor, is useful throughout the clean-up procedure to visualize small beads of mercury. The following procedure can be used to clean-up small spills: • • • • Isolate the spill area. Keep pets away. Do not track contamination into other areas. Mercury is volatile, all ventilation pathways to the rest of the house should be blocked off. Close all doors to other areas. Shut off ventilation to the room (heating/air-conditioning forced air ducts) Jewelry should be removed before beginning as mercury will bind to gold and silver. During and after clean-up activities, it is important to ventilate the spill area to outdoors. Open all doors and windows in the spill area which lead outdoors. Use powered fans to blow air out windows or doors if possible. Wear disposable plastic or latex gloves and long sleeves and pants. If mercury comes in contact with skin, wash immediately. Disposable clothing should be used where possible, and should be removed promptly when contaminated. Do not wash contaminated clothing in a washing machine, the washing machine will become contaminated. Care should be taken when picking up mercury. When mercury falls to the floor it shatters into tiny beads and spreads in many directions. Using an index cards, start at the outer edges of the spill and push all the mercury beads and glass together into the center of the spill area. Scoop the mercury and glass up with a plastic dust pan. A medicine dropper held perpendicular to the floor can also be used to pick up mercury beads. Masking tape or scotch tape is useful for picking up the very small mercury beads remaining after using other clean-up methods. Place all waste in zip-lock bags and secure.
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Suffolk County Department of Health Services 15 Horseblock Place Farmingville, N.Y. 11738 (631) 854-2501

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Carefully examine the spill area again with a flashlight to ensure that all mercury has been removed. Closely inspect all cracks where mercury can evade detection. Double bag all waste material, clean-up tools, and other contaminated items and place outdoors. Small amounts of mercury waste can be placed with household trash.

Large Spills A large mercury spills is considered a spill of more mercury than is contained in a thermometer. With large spills, sufficient mercury exists to create a hazardous condition to the occupants of the home if the spill is not properly managed. Large spills should be cleaned-up by a professional clean-up crew. Professional crews are familiar with safe clean-up procedures, possess specialized clean-up and monitoring equipment, have specialized respiratory protection equipment, and can dispose of the hazardous wastes generated. Pregnant women, children, and people with kidney problems are at special risk, and should never clean-up or be exposed to a large spill. If a large spill occurs, a homeowner should immediately consider the following actions: • • Isolate the spill area, no one should use the area. Keep pets away. Do not track contamination into other areas. Mercury is volatile, so all ventilation pathways to the rest of the house should be blocked off. Close all doors to other areas. Shut off ventilation to the room (heating/air-conditioning forced air ducts). If practical, carefully cover the spill with a sheet of plastic to minimize mercury evaporation into the air taking care not to disturb the mercury on the floor. Contact a professional clean-up crew. Contact the Suffolk County Department of Health Services at (631) 854-2501. The Department of Health can answer homeowner questions, refer clean-up contractors, and may send an inspector to your home to evaluate the spill.

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If you or your family have been exposed to liquid mercury or mercury vapors, contact your doctor immediately to determine if testing or other action may be required. This is especially important for children, pregnant women, and people with kidney conditions. If medical symptoms are exhibited following exposure, contact poison control immediately at (631) 542-2323.

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Suffolk County Department of Health Services 15 Horseblock Place Farmingville, N.Y. 11738 (631) 854-2501

Typical clean-up strategies for large spills are discussed below. Household vacuum cleaners and shop-vacs should NEVER be used to clean up mercury spills. This will cause the mercury to volatilize, increase airborne concentrations, and may cause the contamination to spread to other areas. In addition, the vacuum cleaner will be contaminated and will have to be thrown away. A flashlight held at an angle, close to the floor, is useful throughout the clean-up procedure to visualize small beads of mercury. The following guidelines are commonly used to clean-up large spills. These criteria should be considered, and discussed with the clean-up crew. • • Jewelry should be removed before beginning as mercury will bind to gold and silver. During and after clean-up activities, it is important to ventilate the spill area to outdoors. Open all doors and windows in the spill area which lead outdoors. Use powered fans to blow air out windows or doors if possible. Consider removing electronic equipment from the area (such as computers) which can accumulate mercury, and continue to be a source of mercury over time. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment. At a minimum, wear disposable plastic or latex gloves and long sleeves and pants. Disposable clothing should be used where possible, and should be removed promptly when contaminated. Wear respirator protection if mercury concentrations dictate. If mercury comes in contact with skin, wash immediately. Do not wash contaminated clothing in a washing machine, the washing machine will become contaminated. Metal tools should not be used to clean-up mercury unless the tools are disposable because mercury will adhere to the tools. Mercury can find it's way into hard to reach areas such as under and behind molding, in cracks, etc. Theses items may need to be removed for effective cleaning. If using a mercury vacuum (never use a household vacuum) begin at the outer edge of the spill and work towards the middle. Draw slowly across the floor in several directions. Use special tools for cracks and crevices if possible. If using a mercury spill clean-up kit or amalgamating powder, use in accordance with manufacturer's directions.

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Suffolk County Department of Health Services 15 Horseblock Place Farmingville, N.Y. 11738 (631) 854-2501

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Carefully containerize wastes in zip lock bags or other sealable containers. Check the spill area with a mercury vapor detector. If elevated levels are detected 12 inches above spill area, repeat the cleaning process. Repeat the process several times if elevated vapor levels are detected. Small beads of mercury in crevices which cannot be effectively removed can be neutralized with a sodium thiosulfate powder/solution, or with other commercially available products in accordance with manufacturer's directions. Other clean-up methods exist such as mercury absorbing sponges and hand pumps which may be considered by the clean-up contractor.

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Note: DO NOT MIX cleanup products, and DO NOT USE ammonia to clean up mercury spills. All metallic mercury should be recycled. All other waste material should be removed from the site and disposed of as industrial or hazardous waste in accordance with state and federal regulations. After clean-up of a large spill, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services should be contacted at (631) 854-2501 to arrange for air sampling of the area before the space is re-occupied.

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