What To Do When Mercury Spills

Friday 14th April 2023

Joanna Grimbley-Smith

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Mercury droplets on white surface CONTENTS

Mercury is a silvery liquid metal that is found in lots of household items, like thermometers, compact fluorescent lightbulbs, and batteries. When one of these items breaks, a small amount can spill out. Although it might appear a little problem, it could have a big impact on your health.

At ICE Cleaning, we offer rapid response mercury clean up services. Our hazardous chemical cleaning specialists can deal with a spill of any size, and are fully permitted to handle and dispose of the mercury. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, wherever you are in the UK.

Continue reading to find out what you must do if mercury spills in your property.

What is mercury?

Mercury is a heavy metal which comes in many forms, like inorganic mercury salts and methylmercury in fish. But it can normally be found in the home as elemental or metallic mercury, a shiny liquid that is also known as quicksilver.

When dropped, it splits into tiny droplets which can roll away and slip into small cracks and crevices. At room temperature, exposed elemental mercury evaporates into an odourless, colourless vapour which is very harmful to be exposed to.

Is mercury dangerous?

All forms of mercury are toxic and can harm people’s health. Elemental mercury specifically is hazardous to be exposed to as the vapour can cause severe health problems like:

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings, irritability, and other emotional changes
  • Kidney problems
  • Respiratory issues

Prolonged exposure can even be fatal. Ingesting and touching the metal is not as harmful as inhaling its vapours, but it could also put your health at risk. You can find out more about the dangers of mercury exposure in this blog.

What to do in the event of a spillage

The moment you notice mercury has spilt in your property, have everyone leave the room. Open all the windows and doors to the outside to ventilate the room and stop the vapours building up.

Turn down the heating to minimise the amount of evaporation. Shut any doors and windows leading elsewhere in the property and switch off the air conditioning to stop vapours travelling around your home.

Then contact a professional mercury clean up company, like ICE Cleaning, to remove all traces of the chemical and dispose of any contaminated materials.

Why only professionals should clear up mercury spills

Without personal protective equipment (PPE), like a face mask and gloves, you will be in close contact with the mercury and are more likely to inhale the vapours or touch it.

There is also a chance you could hurt yourself on a broken item, such as cutting yourself while picking up shards of glass.

You might make the spill worse, too, like splitting up the mercury into small beads and making clean up very difficult. If you fail to remove all the mercury, you could put your health at risk for the foreseeable future as it can evaporate slowly over long periods of time.

Mercury disposal is very complex, as well, and must follow strict local regulations to avoid pollution. Professional cleaners will know exactly how to dispose of the mercury and contaminated waste correctly.

Mercury clean up specialists will give you the peace of mind that your property is mercury-free and the affected area is safe.

What not to do when mercury spills

  • Don’t try to hoover up the mercury: the heat of the vacuum will speed up evaporation and increase exposure.
  • Never sweep it up with a broom: this might break the mercury into very small droplets and spread it around a large area, making clean up very difficult.
  • Make sure it does not get poured down the drain: mercury can pollute the septic tank or sewage treatment plan, and cause problems with your plumbing.
  • Don’t walk through a mercury spill: your shoes will be contaminated and could spread it round the rest of your home.
  • Avoid using the washing machine to clean contaminated clothes: it will become contaminated with mercury and may need to be disposed of as hazardous waste.

Get in touch

Our fully trained technicians have the industry-leading equipment and products to thoroughly decontaminate your property quickly and safely. In an emergency, they can be on site in several hours.

To find out more about our mercury cleaning services, and get a free site survey and no-obligation quote, give us a call on 0208 066 0360 or send us an email at enquiries@icecleaning.co.uk.

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