Mercury, among the best investments in precious metals, has its uses in the modern world. But the shiny, silvery liquid metals also has its dangers, especially in terms of serious health problems caused by exposure including its unsafe handling. There’s also the danger of actually inhaling liquid mercury that has evaporated in the room where it was spilled, such as from a thermometer.
The bottom line: Don’t cry tears of fear and frustration when mercury is spilled in your home! The liquid metal may have come from thermometers, thermostats, gas pressure regulators, barometers, and blood pressure units, all of which are also found in homes. But no matter the source, the best action is to consider the safest way of cleaning up and disposing mercury from your home.
Here’s what you can do to reduce, if not eliminate, your risks of unsafe handling of spilled mercury.
Immediately After the Spill
Always avoid contact with mercury immediately after it has been spilled. You have to make several decisions including:
- How much mercury was spilled?
- What method of clean-up will be best in case you can do it yourself?
- Who will you call for a professional clean-up?
The rule of thumb is that, if spilled mercury comes from a fever thermometer or home thermostat, then you can clean it up. Be sure to look at the mercury, too, since larger spills should be done by professionals. In general, a 3-gram (i.e., approximately the size of a single green pea) spill can be a DIY job.
Don’t even think about handling the mercury without proper safety gear! You may think that it’s a simple matter of picking it up it isn’t because mercury will divide again and again into smaller and smaller balls. You will have more pieces to pick up, so to speak, and more headaches than you can handle at the moment.
Avoid Spreading the Spill
For this reason, you should avoid spreading the spilled liquid metal. Keep these tips in mind:
- Never use mops, brooms and vacuum cleaners.
- Avoid walking through the area where the mercury was spilled since even minor vibrations can split it.
- Leave the clothes and shoes that have come into contact with the spilled mercury inside the spill room.
- Close the doors so that the mercury’s vapors will not spread.
- Open exterior windows in the room so that mercury favors can be dissipated outdoors. A fan in the window can be used to blow the vapors out although care must be taken since a breeze can blow them back inside.
These measures may seem exaggerated but when the adverse health effects are considered, these are sensible measures.
Use a Mercury Spill Kit
If you have a mercury spill kit, you can safely and effectively clean up the spill. Be sure to read and re-read the instructions on the spill kit until such time that you have complete understanding. Aside from the kit, you should also keep on hand items that will be used in case of a mercury spill including:
- Latex gloves
- Flashlight for seeing into dark places where mercury may be hiding
- Ziplock bags
- Plastic trash bags
- Duct, masking or clear tape
- Paper towels
- Stiff cardboard or index cards
- Sulfur powder (ask your local authorities about the suitable type)
But don’t wait for a mercury spill either. Read the instructions on the kit as soon as you get it, ask for clarifications from the manufacturer, and even watch instructional videos on their proper use. The more you know about its proper use, the more likely you can do so.
Call the Professionals
There are instances, however, when calling in the professionals is a must for your own safety, as well as for the safety of the people in your home. These instances include:
- When the spill is more than 3 grams
- When it’s widely scattered over the area
- When the carpets or rugs on which the spill happens can’t be thrown out for any reason
- When it’s on upholstered furniture
- When it’s on porous items unsuitable for bagging
Better yet, if you cannot handle the spill on your own for any reason, you should contact your local authorities for references to the professionals who can do the job. You may also browse the Yellow Pages and look for professionals under the headings “environmental engineers”, “engineering services”, and “hazardous waste”.
Mercury as an investment is among the most profitable in the market because of its high demand. But when it’s spilled in your home, you should think about your best options in its safe and effective removal.
You should be careful when buying products or installing appliances that contain the toxic, if useful, liquid metal for this reason. Your cautious approach to it may also be applied when making mercury-related investments, too, especially in terms of reading reports and histories of its investment potential.