Date: Mon, 10 May 2010 10:38:36 -0600
Reply-To: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: Alan Hall <ahalltoxic**At_Symbol_Here**MSN.COM>
Subject: Re: 3 re: Hg response
In-Reply-To: <F72C39B8-1954-4326-98C7-FB0AC2E83AC8**At_Symbol_Here**>

As a Medical Toxicologist and the father of an adult daughter who te aches 7-12 Science, I'll add my 2 cents worth.
The amount of Hg wasn't specified (I assume it was metallic [liquid] Hg), but doesn't seem to have been large.  The risk of health effects fr om an acute exposure to this is minimal, if it is not heated or ot herwise formed into Mercury Vapor, which can and does have very se vere eye and respiratory tract effects and can be fatal (we could dicsuss a South American mine and other mercury vapor exposure issues at another tim e).  You could even drink it and if it doesn't accumulate in the ver iform appendix or get caught in the genetic defect called a Meckle's divert iculum, it would likely just pass through (NOT that this is a good idea).   One of the worst ones I got involved with was South American boxer s injecting it subcutaneously into their hands so that they could punch har der.  VERY BAD idea.  Or the psychotic folks who decid ed to inject it IV (and then if they had a open foramen ovale or foramen se condus in the heart, it gets into the entire circulatory system including the lungs).  AN EVEN MORE BAD idea.  This is extremely unlik ely in a "brought-to-school" liquid/metallic mercury incident.  Natu rally, once we start talking about organic or inorganic mercury co mpounds, all bets are off.
In these "brought-to-school" exposures, the likelihood of c hronic exposure is minimal as they are so frequent that nearly if not all R egional Poison Centers and State, County, and Local Health/Envir onmental Departments have standard reponse and clean-up protocols.&n bsp; Many involve the use of relatively innocous sulfur compounds to comp lex the elemental mercury and I would suspect that nearly all would strongl y advise against using a vacuum cleaner which just spreads the mercury cont amination.  This does sometimes happen as the custodial staff are us ed to hoovering things up.
On the "real risk" doesn't equal "perceived risk" side of the equati on, the school officials may have over-reacted, but they actually did n othing wrong (what student will complain about a day or two off from school ?).  If you believe that life should be without risk (real in terms of health or legal in terms of litigation), always err on the side of cau tion (even when it is not the side of reason/science).  Science is i n the end, just another way of looking at the Universe and trying to make sense of it.  Science is the one way that has always appeale d to me (but:  first there was nothing, which exploded?), and I would agree that the school closure etc. was a great deal of overkill for a risk that was most likely minimal.  Who amongst us who has acheived the 6th decade of life didn't have a chance to play with small amounts of metallic (liquid) mercury as a child?  And yet many of us have achie ved advanced degrees, academic appointments, and gone on to wort hwhile careers ("if you can't be smart, be lucky comes to mind").& nbsp; It doesn't mean that this was smart or that we should have done it.   But for many of us, it did happen.
So let's all please don't fault anyone who keeps us abreast of the developm ents in our world on the D-CHAS listserve. 
There's a lot more to our respective professions that just knowing chemical toxicity and how to prevent or treat it.
Alan H. Hall, M.D.
Laramie, WY
Colorado School of Public Health
Denver, CO


Date: Mon, 10 May 2010 11:45:36 -0400
From: ecgrants**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU
Subjec t: [DCHAS-L] 3 re: Hg response
To: DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU

From: McGrat h Edward J <Edward .McGrath**At_Symbol_Here**>
Date: May 10 , 2010 10:14:42 AM EDT
Subject: RE: [DCHAS-L] Chemical Safety headlines from Google

Since my are a of (expertise?  Let=92s go with =93area of responsibility=94) is K -12 science safety, I=92d like to address the LaGrange Middle School Hg i ncident.
I=92m thinki ng the decision to close the school had less to do with minimizing a hazard and more to do with minimizing the chance of litigation.  The artic le gives no specifics, i.e. was the vial open?  How much mercury w as in the vial? However, if the county health officials recommended schoo l closure, there=92s no way the principal would decide against this actio n.  Imagine the court case:  we find out (heaven forbid) that a child goes home sick, the family lawyer determines that the child had symptoms =93consistent with mercury poisoning,=94 and the principal had b een advised by county health officials to close the school but didn=92t.&nb sp; I think you can imagine what happens next.  I doubt that a sin gle parent would complain about the decision to close school for the day.
On the other hand=97=93sodium hydroxide, an acidic liquid cleaning solution=85=94&nbs p; as an educator, I want to cry!
Edward J. Mc Grath
Science Supe rvisor
Red Clay Con solidated School District
office:  ; (302) 552-3768

Date: May 10 , 2010 10:13:25 AM EDT
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Chemical Safety headlines from Google

Any amount o f spilled mercury is a cause for concern.  I just recently responded to a mercury spill in Oakland, Maryland, in which a 20-30 ml vial of m ercury being played with by students was enough to contaminate 14 rooms abo ve levels acceptable to ATSDR and the local health department.  Expo sure limits to non-responder personnel can be set as low as 10 micrograms p er cubic meter.  Even though the volume is small, the mass is high er than normal.  I was part of the U.S. EPA team that responded to t he release (START).  The school was closed down for over a we ek until it was remediated to acceptable limits.

From: "Reinh ardt, Peter" <peter.rein hardt**At_Symbol_Here**>
Date: May 10 , 2010 10:07:06 AM EDT
Subject: RE: [DCHAS-L] Chemical Safety headlines from Google - mercury spills

Re the mercu ry spill, please note that ATSDR=92s Minimal Risk Level (MRL) for mercury for non-occupationally exposed individuals is 200 ng/M^3. Studies have fou nd tremors, impaired cognitive skills and sleep disturbance in workers wi th chronic exposure to mercury vapor near this level, and even a very sma ll spill can exceed it. In addition, most of us have a mercury body burde n to due environmental exposures. It is a serious problem, especially for children. Areas where mercury spills occur need to be closed, tested and cleaned.
Pete< /DIV>  
Peter A. Rei nhardt
Director, Office of Environmental Health & Safety
Yale Univers ity
135 College St., Suite 100
New Haven, CT   06510-2411
(203) 737-21 23


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