Don't Mess With Mercury
As part of Children’s Health month in October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry launched its “Don’t Mess with Mercury” video in an effort to protect people -- especially children -- from the dangers of mercury. Elemental mercury is a shiny, silver-gray metal that is a liquid at room temperature. The EPA responds to numerous mercury spills every year that are primarily caused by children playing with mercury. Playing with mercury just one time can contaminate the body, clothes, and property to the point where they cannot be decontaminated. Breathing mercury vapors is the most common way to be exposed to elemental mercury, and is the most harmful to health. Mercury poisoning in children at high levels can have permanent effects. A teaspoon of mercury not cleaned up properly can contaminate a house so that it is no longer inhabitable. Vacuuming or sweeping a mercury spill can create approximately 10 times more hazardous mercury vapors than cleaning it properly. The EPA’s cost for cleanup can range anywhere from $3,000 to $300,000 or more. The cost to the environment and in some cases human health is not quantifiable.

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