Cleaning Up a Mercury Spill
What Not To Do:
- Never use a household vacuum cleaner or shop vac to clean up mercury. These devices will create more mercury vapors, making the problem worse and increasing the health risks and also contaminating your vacuum cleaner.
- Never use a broom on a mercury spill. It will only scatter the mercury droplets, making them harder to find and pick up. Never pour liquid mercury or mercury compounds down the drain. Since mercury is heavier than water, it will accumulate in the S-trap of the drain and may continue to emit harmful vapors.
- Never place heavily mercury-laden fabrics in a washing machine. The washing machine may become contaminated. Any clothing that becomes contaminated by a mercury spill should be disposed of 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.
The reportable quantity for mercury is 1 pound (approx. 2 tablespoons of liquid). For larger mercury spills, please contact the Missouri Department of Natural Resources 24-hour Environmental Emergency Response hotline at 573-634-2436 for technical advice and assistance.
For any spill involving 1 pound or more, federal law requires the spiller to report the incident to the National Response Center at 800-424-8802.
These guidelines should be useful when dealing with very small mercury spills such as a broken household thermometer (approx. 1 gram), thermostat (approx. 3 grams), or compact fluorescent bulb (approx. 5 milligrams).
- Mercury in Your Environment - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Web page
- Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) - EPA Web page