At one time mercury was common in nearly every American household as a key component in such common household items as thermometers, thermostats and blood-pressure cuffs. As we have become more aware of the health effects of mercury, it has become less prevalent, but incidents of mercury spills still occur regularly. Cleaning up mercury spills correctly is very important for the health and safety of children and adults.
A small amount of mercury spilled on porous materials like cloth, carpet or wood, or trapped in a floor’s cracks and drains can expose everyone in the area for months or even years.
Mercury spills of any quantity can produce harmful vapors.
While the reportable quantity for mercury is 1 pound (approx. 2 tablespoons of liquid), a spill of any amount should be reported so that a technical individual can evaluate the spill and provide advice.
- Never use a household vacuum cleaner to clean up mercury. This will create more mercury vapors and contaminate your vacuum cleaner.
- Never use a broom on a mercury spill. Brooms scatter mercury droplets.
- Never pour liquid mercury or mercury compounds down the drain. Mercury will accumulate in the S-trap of the drain and may continue to emit harmful vapors.
- Never place mercury-laden fabrics in a washing machine. The washing machine may become contaminated. Dispose of clothing properly. For a household, this means double-bagging and placing in the garbage. For a business, this means disposal in accordance with state hazardous waste laws and regulations.
Cleaning Up Small Mercury Spills Fact Sheet
Household Compact Fluorescent Lamp Use and Disposal Fact Sheet – Information about cleaning up CFLs.
For technical advice and assistance, please contact the department’s 24-hour Environmental Emergency Response hotline at 573-634-2436 regarding any mercury spill.