Mercury Disposal and Cleanup Procedures
Disposal of Mercury
- Although most mercury containing compounds are regulated as a hazardous waste, mercury metal is collected for recycling by Health and Safety personnel.
- Whenever possible, Mercury metal should not be mixed with other chemicals (except water).
- Collect Mercury in clean containers with tight fitting lids.
- Always use a secondary container, such as a pan or bucket.
- Label the container “used Mercury” and process a Request for Disposal (pdf file) as you would for any hazardous material.
Mercury Spills and Broken Thermometers
The most common accident involving Hazardous Materials on the campus involves a broken thermometer or a spill of a few drops of Mercury.
- Always respond promptly to a spill or accident involving hazardous materials.
- If you have been properly trained by your supervisor, you may clean up a small chemical spill with the assistance of other personnel in your area.
- A small spill is defined as a spill where :
- There is little threat to human health personnel property or to the environment, and;
- There are no injuries beyond what simple first aid can manage, and;
- The characteristics and the hazards of the material are known, and;
- You have both the supplies and the knowledge necessary to clean up the materials.
If your spill does not fit all of the specifications above, you have a Large Spill.
- Report injuries to the University Police at 915-4911 immediately.
- Contact Health and Safety at 915-5433.
- Tend to injured personnel if you can do so without causing harm to yourself.
- Leave the area of the spill.
Short term exposure to a small amount of mercury while cleaning up a thermometer spill in a large room will not pose a severe health risk. If you feel that you are unable to clean up the spill, consult with someone in your area or contact Health and Safety at 915-5433 for advise.
- Always wear eye protection and appropriate gloves during a cleanup;
- Remove all uncontaminated glassware and other materials out of the way. Materials that are not contaminated should not be packaged as hazardous waste;
- Collect any contaminated glass in a puncture resistant, separately labeled, container for disposal;
- Never use a vacuum cleaner to collect mercury. This will only disperse the mercury into the air;
- Never use the lab vacuum system (without a suitable trap) to collect mercury – you can contaminate the entire vacuum system;
- Use commercial mercury spill kits, and follow manufacturer’s instructions, if available;
- Droplets can be moved together with a piece of paper, cardboard or any similar material. Pool the material to facilitate the collection of material. Using a disposable syringe or a disposable pipette, collect the material into a container. Duct tape or moist paper towels can also be used to collect small droplets;
- Package the mercury and contact Health & Safety as recommended above.