What to do if Mercury Spills
First, determine if it is a large or small spill. A small spill is the amount
found in a typical thermometer (about 0.25 mL). A large spill is anything
greater than that amount.
If it is a LARGE mercury spill, evacuate the immediate area where the
spill occurred. Shut off the ventilation system to that room to prevent
mercury vapor from being spread. Secure the area by locking the room.
Minimize tracking by removing shoes and clothing. Assume that the
clothes of a child who played with mercury are contaminated. Place
clothes in a sealed plastic bag and put them outside in a safe place
until the household trash can be picked up. Plastic can be placed on the
floors to minimize tracking. Contact IDPH for information concerning air
testing and cleanup.
If not contained, large mercury spills can require evacuation of the school
or home, and facilities cannot be used until a cleanup occurs.
Remediation of large mercury spills in schools can cost hundreds of
thousands of dollars.
If it is a SMALL spill, the following precautions should be taken:
- Do NOT use a vacuum cleaner to clean up the spill. A vacuum
cleaner will spread the mercury vapors and tiny droplets will
settle throughout the area, increasing the spread of
contamination and the chance of exposure.
- People not involved in the cleanup should leave the area.
- Minimize tracking by removing shoes and clothing. Assume that
the clothes of a child who played with mercury are contaminated.
Place clothes in a sealed plastic bag and put them outside in a
safe place until the household trash can be picked up. Plastic can
be placed on the floors to minimize tracking.
- Windows and doors in the area of the spill should be opened to
ventilate the area.
- Small amounts of mercury can be collected with adhesive tape or
an eye dropper and stored in a sealed plastic container until
- After all visible mercury has been collected, use a mercury
cleanup kit to clean the spill area and work it into the cracks
with a broom or brush. Do not add water. Materials in the mercury
spill kit will rapidly bind to the remaining mercury and can be
cleaned up with a broom and dustpan. Wash the area with
trisodium phosphate detergent solution and rinse with water.
- Contaminated carpeting should be removed and discarded,
starting in the room in which the spill occurred.
- Contaminated materials and mercury collected from small spills
may be discarded along with household trash, but should be
placed outside in a safe place until the household trash is