Mercury Concerns During Renovations for a Healthy School Environment

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Don't Mess With Mercury

Don't mess with mercuryThis website by CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry teaches educators and students what to do to make schools mercury-safe zones and helps schools prepare for mercury spills.

Why It's Important

  • Mercury is a neurotoxic substance that can have a wide range of health effects depending on the amount and timing of exposure. 
  • Mercury is used in many common school items, such as thermometers, barometers, thermostats, switches, lamps and laboratory reagents. Two major causes of mercury spills at schools are improper storage and mishandling of these items.
  • Mercury spills create public health issues and generally necessitate costly cleanups. EPA’s Mercury in Schools Case Studies provides eye-opening examples of typical problems, incidents and cleanups found in schools across the country.

What You Can Do

  • EPA encourages schools to prevent spills by removing all mercury compounds and mercury-containing equipment and discontinuing their use. 
  • Make sure school policies address: 
    • Identifying and labeling mercury sources 
    • Disposing of mercury safely and responding to spills 
    • Purchasing mercury-free products

EPA and Federal Partners

  • Mercury Hazard Reduction Campaign of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides information to eliminate all unnecessary uses of mercury in NIH facilities, encourage the use of safer alternatives in biomedical research, increase general awareness of mercury hazards and prevent mercury spills and pollution.

Regional, State and Local Resources

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  • Sensible Steps for Healthier School Environments by EPA provides an overview of issues related to mercury in schools.
  • "Mercury, the Community, and Me" from the Oregon State University Superfund Research Program offers an educational packet, two videos, teacher resources with educational activities about mercury and its effects on human health. The program educations students in interdisciplinary science and exposes them to careers, problem solving, decision-making, teamwork and social responsibility. Visit the Partners in Technical Assistance Program website for more information on this collaborative effort with EPA.
  • Guide to Mercury Issues for School Administrators (PDF)(64pp, 3.8M, About PDFby the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency describes the impact of mercury, encourages the use of a mercury management plan and addresses several sources of mercury in schools and alternatives.
  • The Mercury in Schools website of the University of Wisconsin's Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center (SHWEC) provides school and agency staff with the information and tools needed to reduce or eliminate mercury in schools. This website describes why it is important to focus on schools as a source of mercury.
  • The Mercury section of the New York State Department of Health website includes brochures to help school personnel identify mercury sources and reduce or remove the risk of a mercury spill.
  • Mercury in Schools is addressed on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency website. The website discusses state law, how to clean up a mercury spill and the Mercury-Free Zone program.
  • This Mercury Public Service Announcement Video by Environmental Response Television targets youth on the dangers of handling mercury.