Department mercury roundup leaves Missouri homes safer

Nearly 800 Mercury Devices Collected

For more information: 573-751-1010
Volume 37-094 For Immediate Release: April 23, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, -- The Missouri Department of Natural Resources helped make many homes safer last month by setting up collection sites throughout the state. Nearly 800 mercury-containing instruments and an additional 226 pounds of elemental mercury were dropped off during the Department's mercury roundup.

Exposure to mercury can cause serious health problems, so the removal of mercury-containing instruments from homes decreases the likelihood of accidental mercury exposure.

The roundup, a month-long effort held in conjunction with more than 90 local fire departments and county health offices across Missouri, collected 509 thermometers, 34 medical devices, and 252 switches. An additional 226 pounds of elemental mercury was also collected.

The Department, working with local fire and health departments, provided mercury drop off buckets in communities statewide. Any private citizen or non-profit agency could leave mercury-containing instruments, like thermometers, blood pressure cuffs, thermostats or switches, at any of these sites.

The collected items were brought to Jefferson City, where they were sorted and prepared to be picked up by a state contractor. The mercury will either be recycled or disposed of in accordance with hazardous materials regulations.

Short-term exposure to high levels of mercury vapors may cause serious health effects including lung damage, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, as well as increases in blood pressure or heart rate, skin rashes and eye irritation.

Symptoms from chronic or long-term exposure can develop in just a few weeks. Tremors, decreased eye-hand coordination, memory problems, insomnia and irritability can develop quickly. If these symptoms are not correctly identified and exposure is not prevented, permanent nervous system damage can occur.

Anyone who has large quantities of mercury and may have missed the roundup can contact the Department's spill line at 573-634-2436 to arrange to have items picked up. The spill line is also available if you have questions concerning cleaning up a mercury spill at home or work.