What Not to Do After a Mercury Spill
- Don't vacuum up the spill or breakage. This will release mercury into the air and greatly increase the level of contamination.
- Don't sweep up the mercury or broken glass with a broom. This breaks up the mercury into smaller drops, increasing its surface area so that more mercury gets into the air and spread around.
- Don't pour mercury down the drain. It can clog your plumbing and seriously pollute your septic system or the sewer system into which your plumbing drains.
- Don't wash mercury-contaminated clothing. This contaminates your washing machine, all of the other clothes in the load, and the water that is washed down the drain. If you use a clothes dryer afterwards you're releasing mercury into the air and essentially poisoning yourself.
How to Dispose of a Broken Fluorescent BulbFluorescent bulbs and compact fluorescent bulbs contain small amounts of mercury. Here's what to do if you break a bulb:
- Clear the room of people, especially children, and pets. Do not allow children to help you clean up.
- Shut off the heater or air conditioner, is applicable. Open a window and allow the room to air out at least 15 minutes.
- Use a sheet of paper or cardboard to scoop up glass and metal pieces. Deposit the breakage into a glass jar with a lid or a sealable plastic bag.
- Use sticky tape to pick up the smaller pieces of debris. Drop the used tape into the jar or bag.
- While paper and tape should be sufficient to clean up breakage on a hard surface, you may need to vacuum a carpet or rug. Vacuum only after all visible remains have been cleaned up and then dispose of the bag or debris with the rest of the clean-up. If your vacuum has a canister, wipe it clean with damp paer towels and dispose of the used towels.
Cleaning up a broken mercury thermometer is somewhat more involved, so I'll post those instructions separately.