Date: Tue, 11 May 2010 23:35:25 -0400
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: "Richard W. York" <ryork**At_Symbol_Here**WITTENBERG.EDU>
Subject: Re: 3 re: Hg response
In-Reply-To: <027215125B9C4C27A342D0E8CAD2A785**At_Symbol_Here**chemical6df00a>

I learned about the dispersion of mercury some fifty years ago in fourth grade.  A student teacher brought in a test tube (probably 5 or 10 mL) of mercury to show us and the tube got dropped on the floor.  After the adults "cleaned up" I spent free time for several weeks using small bits of folded paper to coax tiny mercury droplets from the floor into an aspirin bottle. As I picture it now, I found droplets ten or twelve feet away from the site of the spill.  I wasn't trying to be a hero; I just wanted to have the mercury.  I kept it for years, but finally added it to mercury we disposed of from the lab.  I wonder how long it took for the rest of it to dissipate.
Until we got rid of the mercury thermometers in our labs, I would have to clean up the broken thermometers.  I would always start a long distance back from the spill and the first priority was to eliminate foot traffic until a wide area was checked and cleaned.
Richard York
Coordinator of Chemistry Labs
Wittenberg University

From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU] On Behalf Of Dr. Jay A. Young [chemsafety**At_Symbol_Here**VERIZON.NET]
Sent: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 3:39 PM
To: DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] 3 re: Hg response

You got it EXACTLY right!  I hope everyone  will hear what you have said so well.
----- Original Message -----
From: ILPI
To: DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU
Sent: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 9:29 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] 3 re: Hg response

It's clear from the discussion here that many just don't appreciate the nature of mercury, and that many of those commenting have never actually handled the material.

Permit me to address a few points:

1. Taking students to the hospital for "decontamination" was over-reaction, absolutely yes.  It was also the worst thing that could have been done if there was serious contamination.  That would have spread the mess to the transport vehicles, the hospital, etc. etc. etc..

2. The ability of mercury to "shatter" into tiny, tiny droplets literally increases its surface area by a factor of **one million** compared to a single small pool.   This not only makes cleanup very difficult, it makes the evaporation rate increase by orders of magnitude.  As one doesn't know the size and physical distribution of the droplets, any calculations about how long it would take to all evaporate is nothing more than complete conjecture, whether we're guessing at how long it would take all the mercury to "go away" or whether the concentrations would become dangerous.

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