How To Clean A Mercury Spillage

Friday 21st July 2023

Joanna Grimbley-Smith

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Beads of mercury on a white surface CONTENTS

You might assume that a small mercury spill in your home caused by a broken thermometer is nothing to worry about. But even traces of mercury can put you at risk of serious health problems, including damage to your kidneys and central nervous system.

At ICE Cleaning, we offer fast and thorough mercury spill clean up services. Our hazardous chemical clean up specialists are fully permitted to handle and dispose of mercury, no matter how big the spill. In an emergency, we can be on site in a matter of hours.

Read on to find out more about what to do when mercury spills in your home.

What is mercury?

Elemental or metallic mercury is a type of mercury that is a shiny, silver-white liquid at room temperature. Exposed mercury evaporates into an odourless, invisible, and non-irritating gas which is very harmful to inhale. You can find out more about the different types of mercury here.

When mercury spills, it forms pools and beads. The beads can roll easily and travel far on hard and smooth surfaces, as well as settle into cracks and crevices.

All forms of mercury are toxic. Elemental mercury can cause a range of health problems depending on how much mercury you were exposed to, how long you were exposed for, and how you were exposed to it.

Breathing in the vapours is the most dangerous way to be exposed to mercury as vapours can quickly pass from the lungs to the bloodstream. It could lead to shortness of breath, respiratory irritation, eye irritation, chest pain, high blood pressure, and kidney damage.

Some people are particularly vulnerable to mercury exposure including pregnant women, nursing infants, and children under 14. Fast, thorough clean up is essential following a spill to make the affected area safe and clean again.

Where is mercury found in the home?

Mercury spills in the home are caused by household items that contain mercury breaking. Although few products manufactured today for domestic use contain mercury, some may still be kept in the home:

  • Thermometers
  • Thermostats
  • Gauges such as barometers, manometers, and blood pressure gauges
  • Electrical switches and relays in antique electrical goods
  • Fluorescent lightbulbs, HID lightbulbs, and neon lightbulbs

Newer products often use a mercury alternative, like coloured alcohol, to keep users safe in the event of a spill. Unless it is a silver, shiny liquid, it is not mercury. These products will also be clearly labelled to indicate if they contain mercury, like having the chemical symbol (Hg) on the packaging.

How to deal with a mercury spillage

1. Evacuate the affected area

Have everyone leave the room so they don’t inhale any vapour or tread in the spill as they could spread it around the rest of the property. Remove pets from the area so they can’t walk through it.

2. Ventilate the room

Open all windows and doors that lead outside to stop mercury vapour building up. Close doors that lead to the rest of the property so the vapour does not travel there.

Turn down heaters so the mercury is not encouraged to evaporate and turn off the central air conditioning so vapours can't spread around the home. If you have fans, use them to blow the air from the affected room outside.

3. Bring in professional cleaners to clean up and dispose of the mercury

Although there is plenty of guidance online for cleaning mercury spillages, it is recommended you leave it to professionals to give you peace of mind your property is safe again.

Unless you are trained to use a mercury spillage kit, contact specialist cleaners as soon as possible. They will flush out the vapour, remove all traces of the mercury, test the mercury vapour level to ensure it has been eliminated, and then dispose of the waste.

4. Air out the property following clean up

After the mercury is removed and disposed of, ventilate the area by opening windows and running fans in windows for at least 24 hours. Keep pets and children away from the area to protect their health.

Why you should not clean up mercury yourself

Firstly, mercury is difficult to clean up as the beads can travel quickly and spread across an entire room. Finding all those individual beads, including the ones that have slipped into crevices or gaps, is very hard. Any you leave behind could put people’s health at risk.

You might also clean and dispose of the mercury incorrectly. Hoovering a spill, for example, will heat up the mercury, encourage it to evaporate, and release it into the air. Or if you pour it down the drain, it can get stuck in your plumbing and release vapour into your home.

If your clothes are contaminated with mercury, you must not put them in the washing machine as it can contaminate it and pollute sewage. You must dispose of it according to local regulations. 

Get in touch

Our technicians can take care of the entire clean up process, including disposing of all contaminated waste. They are available across the UK, day and night, 365 days a year.

Contact our friendly team on 0208 066 0360 or send them an email at enquiries@icecleaning.co.uk to book our technicians for mercury spillage clean up.

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Reilly Peters

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