Instructions For Cleaning Up Mercury Spills

Instructions For Cleaning Up Mercury Spills

Cleaning up Mercury Spills

Only those who have been properly trained should clean up a mercury spill.

What NEVER to Do After a Mercury Spill:

  • Never use a vacuum cleaner to clean up mercury. The vacuum will put mercury into the air and increase exposure.
  • Never use a broom to clean up mercury. It will break the mercury into smaller droplets and spread them.
  • Never pour mercury down a drain. It may lodge in the plumbing and cause future problems during plumbing repairs. If discharged, it can cause pollution of the septic tank or sewage treatment plant.
  • Never walk around if your shoes might be contaminated with mercury. Contaminated clothing can also spread mercury around.

Prepping for Clean Up of a Broken Mercury Thermometer

  • Have everyone else leave the area; don’t let anyone walk through the mercury on their way out.
  • Mercury can be cleaned up easily from the following surfaces: wood, linoleum, tile and any similarly smooth surfaces.
  • If a spill occurs on carpet, curtains, upholstery or other absorbent surfaces, these contaminated items should be thrown away in accordance with proper disposal means discussed in the next section. Only cut and remove the affected portion of the contaminated carpet for disposal.
OSHA Mercury Exposure Requirements

Mercury Spill Clean Up Instructions

Remember, only people who are properly trained should cleanup a mercury spill. Here are some other important things to remember:

  • Put on gloves.
  • If there are any broken pieces of glass or sharp objects, pick them up with care. Place all broken objects on a paper towel. Fold the paper towel and place in a zip locking bag. Secure the bag and label it as directed by your local health or fire department.
  • Locate visible mercury beads. Use a squeegee or cardboard to gather mercury beads into small mercury balls. Use slow sweeping motions to keep mercury from becoming uncontrollable. Take a flashlight, hold it at a low angle close to the floor in a darkened room and look for additional glistening beads of mercury that may be sticking to the surface or in small cracked areas of the surface.
  • Use an eyedropper to collect or draw up the mercury beads. Slowly and carefully squeeze mercury onto a damp paper towel. Alternatively, use two pieces of cardboard paper to roll the mercury beads onto the paper towel or into the bag. Place the paper towel in a zip locking bag and secure. Make sure to label the bag as directed by your local health or fire department.
  • After you remove larger beads, put shaving cream on top of small paint brush and gently “dot” the affected area to pick up smaller hard-to-see beads. Alternatively, use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments. (Peel the tape very slowly from the floor to keep the mercury beads stuck to the tape.) Place the paint brush or duct tape in a zip locking bag and secure. Make sure to label the bag as directed by your local health or fire department.
  • Place all materials used with the cleanup, including gloves, in a trash bag. Place all mercury beads and objects into the trash bag. Place the trash bag outside in a secured area and label it as directed by your local health or fire department.
  • Contact your local health department, municipal waste authority, or your local fire department to find out how to conduct proper disposal in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

After Cleanup

Remember to keep the area well ventilated to the outside (i.e., windows open and fans in exterior windows running) for at least 24 hours after your successful cleanup. You may want to request the services of a contractor who has monitoring equipment to screen for mercury vapors. Consult your local environmental or health agency to inquire about contractors in your area.


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