News Release 561

Department of Natural Resources responds to mercury release at Christian County School

Volume 38-561 (For Immediate Release)
Contact: Larry Archer
573-751-3807 

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, SEPT. 27, 2010 – The Missouri Department of Natural Resources responded this weekend to a Christian County school to clean up a release of mercury in the school’s science room.

Officials with Chadwick High School, 7090 State Highway 125 South, notified the department Friday afternoon about 3:30 p.m. that a mercury thermometer had been broken in the school’s science room. Officials closed and locked the room and evacuated the students.

The department dispatched an emergency responder from its regional office in Springfield to clean up the mercury and monitor the room for mercury vapor. The spilled mercury was cleaned up by Friday evening, and several cycles of heating and ventilating the room reduced the presence of mercury vapors below the level where any additional action was needed. The cleanup and monitoring was completed by Saturday afternoon.

According to the Department of Health and Senior Services’ Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology, any possible health issues for students will depend on their length and level of exposure to mercury vapors. In this case, the actions taken by the school likely minimized any mercury exposure.  People who are concerned about potential exposures may contact the Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology at 573-751-6102 for more information on mercury exposure or their personal physician for medical concerns.  

Metallic mercury is liquid at room temperature and has no odor. It was once commonly used in thermometers, barometers, switches and blood-pressure measuring devices.

When spilled, some of the metal will evaporate into the air and can be carried long distances. Mercury is toxic when inhaled. Improper clean up with a vacuum, paintbrush or household cleaner increases exposure by dispersing the mercury into the air. For more information on cleaning up mercury spills, see the department’s Web site: http://www.dnr.mo.gov/env/mercury-cleanup.htm.

To report an environmental emergency, including mercury spills, please the contact the Department of Natural Resources’ spill line at 573-634-2436. For more information about the Missouri Department of Natural Resources contact the department at 800-361-4827 or 573-751-3443, or visit the department's Web page at dnr.mo.gov.

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