I was on the Faculty at UWEC for 32 years, serving first as Chair of the Safety Committee, then as Chemical Hygiene Officer. I wish that I had a dime for every broken mercury thermometer that I cleaned up. I earned a B.S. in chemistry in 1956, back in the day when we were all exposed to benzene, carbon tet, chloroform, DMF, etc. Fume hoods back then often had face velocities near zero. Qual labs were often full of hydrogen sulfide, to which we were exposed for 4 hours at a time. Luckily I have reached 81. It must have been due to many years of exposure to Wisconsin beer. Al Denio, Delaware Section
Chemical training for first responders and even EH&S people has taken on a life of its own beyond chemical knowledge. Actions in the field need to be "rote" for some instances but chemistry discipline knowledge needs to be taught in the training sessions so that some of the insights will leak out in the field exercises and serve as guidance. Many of the people in these lines of work are not really into chemistry, certainly not very curious about the interesting stuff, and want the job to be as straight-forward as possible.
One thing alarming in these mercury metal responses is that they seem to be acting on the hazards of the infamous dimethylmercury, truly hazardous as we all know, in dealing with the comparatively low hazard of mercury metal. Granted: if mercury metal is spilled in a house, where vapor can persist at low levels for years (especially in winter), it needs to be found. I get the impression that they use a meter (eg. the Jerome) that measures at very low levels and will dig down until all vapor sources are uncovered. Unfortunately liability with the public servants dictates that someone be able to say for certain that the scene is contaminant free to a very close level of detection.
The word "chemical" has only connotations and tobacco "vapers", zero-calorie soda, bacon and Axe body roll-on (good stuff) are not "chemicals".
While I'm at it: What is the deal with swimming pool chlorination? Can they at least try to train the "pool boy" to read the directions or hold to the procedure? Fun Fact: James (steam engine) Watt invented chlorine bleach; his family was in fabric dying.. He rolls agonizingly in his tomb.
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**med.cornell.edu
] On Behalf Of Secretary, ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety
Sent: Wednesday, August 05, 2015 11:48 AM
Subject: [DCHAS-L] Mercury
From: Ernest Lippert <ernielippert**At_Symbol_Here**toast.net
Date: August 5, 2015 at 12:37:46 PM EDT
>The Bakersfield mercury response suggests we still have some learning to do about how to sanely respond to chemical incidents...
By all accounts, I should have died long ago but at 84 I am in excellent health. In high school I was the local authority on mercury. I knew how to amalgamate dimes. I recovered several grams of mercury from the dust outside of school where it had been lost by another kid. In graduate school I used sodium-mercury alloy to amalgamate potentiometer contacts, and on and on throughout many years. I was careful and didn't do anything really stupid.
Yes, Don, we really need to bring back some (chemical, at least) sanity and understanding. Ask around and you'll be surprised how many people don't even know what a chemical is, just that they fear them all. I ask "even vinegar, salt and sugar?"