I'm going to jump to another conclusion that many are thinking that the household information about cleaning up mercury applies also to schools. I've been reading the
Federal Register for 30 years, and you should make no assumptions whatever about EPA REGULATIONS based on EPA's household ADVICE.
* Householders can remove their own lead paint themselves, but if they hire a contractor to do it, the contractor must be trained and certified.
* A householder using artists paints containing large percentages of lead and cadmium can put this paint down the drain or throw it in the trash. A school would get fines for the same behavior if caught.
* A householder in most states can throw their fluorescent bulbs in the trash, a school cannot.
And on and on. And this was not EPA's policy because they think the householders can deal with it safely. It is because they know they can't enforce these rules on millions of households.
Find out what the EPA, your local DEP, and the district's policies are for mercury spills IN SCHOOLS before you talk about cleaning it up yourselves. This is not a matter of common sense or a matter or our unique expertise to decide what we think would be safe. It is a matter of law. And it is likely that you are not allowed to do it yourself without any testing. I wouldn't recommend doing this without verifying the clean up was successful anyway for liability reasons.
In a message dated 5/11/2010 9:00:48 PM Eastern Daylight Time, Brad.Norwood**At_Symbol_Here**ARISTALABS.COM writes:
According to the EPA website:
I would like to point out two things:
1) The clean-up of small quantities of metallic mercury are decidedly a low-key affair. Do it yourself, keep kids &pets away, ventilate thoroughly for 24 hours, here are the instructions. No mention of sending everyone who was in the room to the hospital. No mention of measuring the mercury levels in the room. No discussion of taking into account the temperature, volume, airflow rate, etc. I deduce from this that spills of small amounts of mercury can and should be cleaned up immediately by someone who is mature, without a lot of hysterical hoopla and unnecessarily worrying parents, teachers &administrators. This requires NO formal training. In this situation we are NOT talking about chronic exposure, high background levels, high temperature, small air volume or any other factor that might potentially cause this small amount of mercury to pose any credible acute threat to anyone present.
2) On the other hand, spills of more than one pound (two tablespoons) require notification of the National Response Center (although it appears the intent here is release to the environment, not necessarily a spill in a room that is then immediately contained, recovered and cleaned up.
It should also be pointed out (in fairness) that the EPA"s focus is, by definition, the impact on the environment, not necessarily the impact on those that deal with the "spill". However, PPE is specified in the clean-up directions, so they"re not completely ignoring that aspect.
The asterisk here is that, given the information in the article that generated this whole discussion, we still do not know how much mercury was spilled.
So, if this was a small amount of mercury (less than 2 tablespoons) I will reiterate my contention that the entire incident was blown entirely out of proportion. In this event, my main "beef" is with whoever the hazmat "professional" was that was first contacted. The correct response was "Yes, you can clean this up yourself without requiring a full-blown hazmat response."
If it was more than 2 tablespoons, hazmat had to get involved, but sending people to the hospital was still way over the top and unnecessarily worried a lot of folks IMO.
I"m not sorry I got this thread started; I think there has been a lot of good discussion generated by it. I hope that no one feels that I objected to the inclusion of the newsbrief in the digest, because I did not. Again, the problem, as I see it, was the response to the situation.
Dr. Bradley K. Norwood
1941 Reymet Road
Richmond, VA 23237
(804) 271-5572 ext. 307
(804) 641-4641 (cell)
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