How to deal with a mercury spill

LENOIR, NC  (WBTV) – Environmental Protection Agency experts are advising people who think they have a mercury spill of any kind in their homes to go to the EPA website and explore the options for cleanup before they do anything.

Matthew Huyser is in Lenoir leading the effort to mitigate the mercury spill at Whitnel Elementary.

He said Thursday that people do seem concerned because almost every home has something with mercury in it.

"The new compact fluorescent bulbs do contain a small amount of mercury and should be handled carefully," he said.

There are warnings on the boxes and an 800 number to call if a consumer has questions.   The best thing to do he said is go to www.epa.gov and follow the instructions.

Procedures will vary depending on what has to be cleaned up.  The website will go over the dos and don'ts of cleaning mercury.

Two things not to do, said Huyser, is use a vacuum cleaner or a broom to clean up the mess. Mercury can cause brain damage and other health issues especially if exposed to it over a long period of time.

Vapors present the biggest hazard and experts say if mercury is present, so is the vapor.

When encased in glass such as in thermometers and electrical devices such as thermostats and light bulbs, the mercury is contained safely.

It's when those items break open that problems develop. Keep children away from any broken containers and go to the website for advise, said Huyser.