Mercury is a toxic substance known to be used in many everyday implements such as batteries, thermometers, barometers, lighthouses and manometers. Due to the recognised dangers, many of these items have been replaced with less dangerous alternatives.
Inhalation of Mercury vapours following a spill are a major risk due to the high level of absorption that is likely to occur when the Mercury gas is inhaled. Exposure through skin is also a high risk, especially if the individual at risk has cuts or abrasions that may come into contact with the Mercury.
Large mercury spills come with the added risk that their effects may last for a significant period following the spill if decontamination is not executed correctly. Exposure to increased levels of mercury vapour may cause lung damage, nausea, vomiting and more.
Decontamination of an area affected by a mercury spill is complicated by the tendency of the substance to break down into small “balls” that are virtually impossible to collect if the correct equipment is not used. The use of a vacuum cleaner (although tempting) is strictly out of bounds due to the fact that it may broadcast mercury vapours into the atmosphere of the area being decontaminated.
To further complicate the matter, it is difficult if not impossible to remove spilt mercury from porous materials such as clothing, carpets, dry walling, raw or natural wood and materials used to upholster furniture for example. This makes the safe removal and compliant disposal of materials affected in this way an important part of the decontamination process.
Mercury (chemical symbol Hg) has an atomic number of 80 and is classified as a hazardous substance under the WFD (Waste Framework Directive). Mercury is highly toxic and persistent alongside having bio-accumulating tendencies in living organisms, inflicting increasing levels of harm.
As mercury is hazardous, it must be disposed off appropriately. A duty of care alongside rigorous guidance set out by the Environmental Agency means mercury needs to be disposed off at an approved waste facility. Ideal Response are a certified upper-tier waste carrier that can dispose of all types of waste including hazardous waste.
If you have encountered a mercury spill it is important to remember these types of hazardous chemicals need to be disposed of safely and responsibly. If you require a comprehensive mercury clean up solution with a quick turn around time, get in contact with our experts that are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.