News Release 037

Department of Natural Resources responds to mercury release at Polk County school

Volume 39-037 (For Immediate Release)
For more information: 573-751-1010

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, FEB. 28, 2011 – The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is responding to a Polk County school to clean up a mercury release reported by school officials late this afternoon.

Officials with Bolivar Middle School, 604 W. Jackson St., notified the department this afternoon about 3:30 p.m. that a student found a vial of mercury and opened it, spilling some of the content.

The department has dispatched an emergency responder from its regional office in Springfield to clean up the mercury and monitor the room for mercury vapor. 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, school officials reported that the spill occurred during the last class period of the day, minimizing the time of exposure for the children in the classroom.

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. Small amounts of mercury can continue to evaporate over a long period of time if not properly cleaned up, increasing the time of exposure for students.

Improper clean up with a vacuum, paintbrush or household cleaner also increases exposure by dispersing the mercury into the air. For more information on cleaning up mercury spills, see the department's website: dnr.mo.gov/env/mercury-cleanup.htm. Additional information can also be found on the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services' website at dhss.mo.gov/living/environment/mercury/index.php.

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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