United States
       Protection Agency
Office of Pollution
Prevention and Toxics,
Washington, DC 20460
EPA 747-R-08-002
    April 2008
     Mercury and  Hazardous
      Chemicals in Schools:

A Manual for Students in Southeast Asia
                                     Printed on Recycled Paper


The time and effort that many individuals contributed to the review and development of this
document is gratefully acknowledged by the United States Environmental Protection Agency
(U.S. EPA). We especially acknowledge the assistance of Ms. Pornpimon Chareonsong of the
Thailand Pollution Control Department. This document was prepared by Battelle Memorial
Institute under contract EP-W-04-021 at the direction of Mr. Clarence Lewis of the EPA Office of
Pollution Prevention and Toxics.
This document was prepared under contract to an agency of the United States Government.
Neither the United States Government nor any of their employees makes any warranty, expressed or
implied, or assumes any legal liability for any third party's use of or the results of such use of any
information, product, or process discussed in this document.  Mention or illustration of company or
trade names, or of commercial products does not constitute endorsement by the U.S. EPA. As of
the date of this document, external links are current and accurate, and are offered by way of example
only for reference purposes.  The U.S. EPA is not responsible for content of non-U.S. EPA links.

                           Teachers and School Administrators Participant's Manual


Chapter 1. Why is Chemical Safety Important?	1
1.1   Children and Adolescents are Particularly Susceptible to Hazardous Chemicals	 1
1.2   Case Studies: It Could Happen in Your School!	2
     1.2.1  A Mercury Spill at a School in the Philippines	2
     1.2.2  A Mercury Spill at a School in Washington, DC, USA	2
     1.2.3  An Accident with Chemicals in a Science Class near New York City, USA	3
     1.2.4  An Accident with Cleaning Chemicals at a School in Chicago, USA	3
     1.2.5  An Accident with Chemical Pesticides at a School near New York City, USA	3

Chapter 2. Hazardous Chemicals and Equipment in Schools	5
2.1   Common Hazardous  Chemicals and Equipment in Schools	5
2.2   Chemical Categories:  Not all Chemicals are Equally Hazardous	6
2.3   What You Can Do to Prevent Chemical Accidents at Your School	8
     2.3.1  Chemical Management	8
     2.3.2  Pollution Prevention and Green Chemistry	9

Chapter 3. Be Smart About Mercury	11
3.1   What is Mercury and Why is it Dangerous?	  11
3.2   The Global Mercury Cycle	  14
     3.2.1  Mercury in Thailand Industries	  16
3.3   Mercury in Schools 	  16
3.4   What Can You Do About Mercury in Your School and Community?	  16
     3.4.1  Eliminate  Mercury in Your School	  17
     3.4.2  Eliminate  Mercury in Your Home	  17
     3.4.3  Learn How to  Clean Up Mercury Spills Safely	  18
3.5   Educate Other Students about the Hazards of Mercury and Chemicals in Schools	  19

Appendix A . Procedure  for Cleaning Up a Mercury Spill Safely	A-l

Figure 1. Worldwide uses of mercury in 2000	12
Figure 2. Crystals of mercury  sulfide (HgS)	  14
Figure 3. Bioaccumulation of methyl mercury in an aquatic ecosystem	14
Figure 4. The global mercury  cycle	15

Table 1. Examples of Hazardous Chemicals and Equipment Commonly Found in Schools	6
Table 2. Chemical Categories, Symbols, and Safety Measures	7
Table 3. Examples of Common Products that Contain Mercury	13
Table 4. Guidelines for Eating Fish and Shellfish	18
                                   Student Participant's Manual

Children and adolescents, up to
approximately age 20, are more susceptible
than adults to potential health risks from
chemicals and environmental hazards.
Hazardous chemicals can interrupt or alter
the normal development of a child's body,
leading to lasting damage. Since children are
smaller than adults, similar levels of exposure
to toxic chemicals will have a greater effect
on children compared to adults.  In addition,
the prevalence of chemicals in the modern
era means that children today are exposed to
dangerous chemicals throughout their lives,
beginning in the womb.

Exposure to even common chemicals such as
gasoline, cleaning products, and paints can
result in health problems, including memory
loss, decreased problem-solving ability,
decreased attention span, impaired dexterity
and hand-eye coordination, altered reaction
time, and altered personality or mood.1
Exposure to mercury, which can occur at
school when a thermometer breaks or at
home from eating contaminated fish, can
cause severe nausea, vomiting, abdominal
pain, kidney damage, inflammation of mouth
and gums, excessive salivation, loosening of
teeth, muscle tremors, spasms, personality
changes, depression, irritability, and
nervousness. Students should note that risks
lAmber E. Bamato, MD, MPH, Children's Health
Environmental Network, Children and Solvents,
                                                  associated with exposure to a specific
                                                  chemical are dependent on many factors,
                                                  including the chemical's hazard level (for
                                                  example, how toxic it is), the route of
                                                  exposure  (for example, contact with skin,
                                                  inhalation, ingestion), and the duration of
                                                  exposure  (for example, minutes, days, years).
        nl. Accessed February 25, 2008.
                                                          A hazardous materials (hazmat) unit
                                                          responding to a chemical spill.

                                                  Children generally rely on adults to protect
                                                  them from the risks associated with exposure
                                                  to dangerous environmental agents.
                                                  Through education and training, however,
                                                  children and adolescents can empower
                                                  themselves about the risks associated with
                                                  hazardous chemicals. Once young people are
                                                  aware of the threats in their everyday lives,
                                                  they can take action with the adults in their
                                                  schools and communities to create safer
                                                  conditions.  This manual will inform you
                                                  about health risks associated with exposure
                                                  to chemicals and environmental hazards,
                                                  especially mercury, and explain what you as a
                                                  student can do to promote chemical safety in
                                                  your school and community.
                                     Student Participant's Manual

School is one of the most common places
where children and adolescents encounter
hazardous chemicals.  Schools routinely use
a variety of potentially dangerous chemicals
and equipment for laboratory experiments,
cleaning, and grounds-keeping. In schools
where administrators and teachers fail to
manage chemicals properly, an accident is
just waiting to happen. Chemical spills and
explosions in schools usually have a big
impact on children and adolescents because
they are the largest population of a school,
and they spend a lot of time there.
       Elemental mercury being
       poured into a beaker.

Do you think a chemical accident cannot
happen in your school? The following case
studies show that chemical accidents can
happen at any time in any school where
chemicals are not being handled and stored

During the evening of 16 February 2006,
the University of the Philippines, Manila
National Poison Management and Control
Center (UP/NPMCC) received a call from a
young person complaining of numbness,
redness, and pain in the extremities. The
UP/NPMCC recognized these symptoms as
characteristic of acute mercury poisoning.
They traced the mercury exposure to an
elemental mercury spill that had occurred
earlier that day in a classroom at St. Andrew's
School in Paranaque City, Republic of the
Philippines (RP).  Elemental mercury is a
toxic metallic liquid.  Local and national
public health personnel closed the school in
order to prevent the  spread of mercury and
poisoning of more students. 203  students
and faculty were evaluated for acute mercury
exposure as a result of the spill, and
10 students were admitted to the Philippines
General Hospital.  The spill was so
widespread in  the school that local
contractors hired to clean it up were unable
to fully remove all traces of the mercury.
The  RP Secretary of Health asked for
international assistance from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA)
in order to remediate the mercury spill.2

      A                 at a         in
On 2 October 2003, a Hazardous Materials
("Hazmat") unit responded to an
emergency call at Ballou High School in
Washington, DC, where a mercury spill had
occurred. A student had taken 250 milliliters
of elemental mercury from a school science
laboratory and sold some of it to other
students, which caused the spillage.  When
spilled, liquid elemental mercury breaks apart
into drops that cling to shoes, clothes, and
other surfaces. By the time the Hazmat unit
and local public health  officials arrived at the
high school, it was too  late to contain the
extent of the mercury spill. Emergency
workers found mercury contamination in
classrooms, the gymnasium, and the cafeteria
of the school.  Students were  sent home in an
2 Final Report, Republic of the Philippines and U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, Collaborative Mercury
Spill Response, St. Andrews School Mercury Spill
Assessment and Removal La Huerta, Paranaque City,
Philippines, 20-25 May 2006.
                                     Student Participant's Manual

effort to keep them safe from the spill, but
contaminated students unknowingly spread
mercury from the school into their homes.
As a result, 16 families were displaced from
their homes for a month, and Ballou High
School was closed for 35 days. The total cost
for cleanup resulting from the spill was
          Drops of elemental mercury.
       An                               in
On the morning of 16 January 2008, fire and
emergency workers responded to a chemical
accident at Somers High School, located in
Westchester County, near New York City.
During a science class, a student had dropped
a bottle containing bromine, a corrosive
liquid chemical that can harm the respiratory
system if it is inhaled.  The bottle broke and
released  approximately 90 milliliters of
bromine onto the  floor of the classroom.
Bromine is very volatile, and fumes  quickly
spread into nearby hallways and classrooms,
causing firefighters to  evacuate the school as
a safety precaution.  The school was closed
for one day due to the spill, and 1 1 students
were treated at a local  hospital for exposure
to bromine.4
3 For additional information, see EPA's Superfund Featured
News Article, http://www.cpa.gpv/supcrtund/
news /mercury, htm
4 Corcoran, Terence and Chris Serico, "Somers High
expected to open today after chemical spill caused
evacuation," The Journal News, 17 January 2008,
                                                               Bromine liquid and vapor
                                                               in a round-bottom flask.
On the morning of 18 January, 2008, the
Chicago Fire Department responded to an
emergency call at Southwood Junior High
School. A janitor had spilled a container of
bleach while he was cleaning a bathroom,
and the bleach mixed with other cleaning
chemicals, releasing toxic, pungent-smelling
fumes that spread throughout the school.
Students and teachers complained of
headaches, nausea, vomiting, and trouble
breathing. Fire officials evacuated the school
and sent students home for the rest of the
day as a safety precaution.  24 students and
2 teachers were treated at a local hospital for
exposure  to the chemical fumes.5

On a Monday morning in October 1992,
students and teachers arrived at Eastchester
High School, near New York City, to find a
layer of liquid covering the floors and desks
of the school and noxious fumes throughout
5 Hood, Joel, "Cleaning chemicals sicken 26 at school," The
Chicago Tribune, 18 January 2008
                                      Student Participant's Manual

the building.  The school had been sprayed
with pesticides the day before to kill
cockroaches, but the chemicals had been
applied too liberally, causing chemical residue
to pool on surfaces inside the  building.
Students complained of headaches, nausea,
dizziness, skin rashes, and respiratory
problems. One student was admitted to the
hospital, and the school was closed for three
weeks in order to completely cleanup the
pesticide residue.6'7  The pesticides used in
the school included chlorpyrifos, diazinon,
and resmethrin. Since 1992, some
restrictions have been placed on the use of
these pesticides in the U.S., although they are
still used today in many  countries.
Student from Southwood Junior High School
being treated for inhalation of chemical fumes.4
6 Lombard!, Kate Stone, "Schools weigh risks of pesticides,"
The New York Times, 10 January 1993,
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/ fullpage.html?res=9FOCEE
7 Ikramuddin, Aisha, "School Days, Sick Days: Lessons in
Pesticides and Classrooms," National Geographic Magazine
Green Guide, IilJ_iK//wwwjliepreMlgll
doc/44/schools, Accessed January 31, 2008.
                                         Student Participant's Manual

Chemicals are everywhere in today's modern
world. We use chemicals to clean our houses
and get to and from work or school.
Chemicals are in the air we breathe and the
clothes we wear.  Most of us use chemicals
everyday without incident. If they are used
incorrectly or in the wrong amounts,
however, all chemicals can be hazardous,
even seemingly innocuous chemicals like
table salt (sodium chloride) and water. Some
chemicals are inherently dangerous under any
conditions, such as  elemental mercury. Since
students  spend a majority of their time in
school, they should be aware of the most
common potentially hazardous  chemicals and
equipment in their schools.
Many different types of chemicals are found
throughout schools in science laboratories,
vocational shops, art studios, custodial areas,
kitchens, nurses' offices, and athletic fields.
When used and stored correctly, chemicals
can provide benefits to students, teachers,
and administrators. Chemicals help students
learn scientific principles and create artistic
masterpieces.  Chemicals also keep schools
clean and free from insects and rodents.
Table 1 lists some examples of potentially
hazardous chemicals and equipment
commonly found in schools.
Universities and high schools offer advanced
science, art, and vocational classes, so they
tend to have larger inventories of potentially
hazardous chemicals and equipment than
middle and elementary schools. While most
chemicals found in schools have been
purchased by school administrators,
sometimes employees and students bring
chemicals into the school for their own
personal use.
Some chemicals are more hazardous than
others.  In order to help safeguard users of
potentially hazardous chemicals, chemicals
are typically organized into categories based
on what type of danger they pose. To help
communicate the possible risks associated
with different chemicals, the United Nations
has developed an internationally accepted set
of symbols called the Globally Harmonized
System  of Classification and Labeling of
Chemicals.8 Table 2 lists the symbols, their
general  definitions, examples of chemicals in
each category, and some appropriate safety
measures. Look for these symbols on the
containers of chemicals you use in school.
                                                   8 United Nations Economic Commission for Europe,
                                                   Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling
                                                   of Chemicals, 2005,
                                                   IllJlK//wwwjiLlgcii.iMWiT^	revQ-1/
                                     Student Participant's Manual

        Concentrated Acids
        Concentrated Bases
        Oxidize rs
        Compressed Gases
        Mercury Thermometers,
        Barometers, Molecular Motion

                               Hydrochloric Acid
                               Nitric Acid
                               Sodium Hydroxide
                               Methylene Chloride
                               Lead Nitrate
                               Cyanide Salts
                               Chromate (VI) Salts
                               Lead Salts
                               Elemental Mercury
        Paints, Paint Thinners,
        Adhesives, Lacquers, Primers
                               Petroleum Naphtha
        Cleaning Supplies and
                               Phosphoric Acid
                               Sodium Silicate
Compressed Gases
        Automobile Fluids
                               Ethylene Glycol
        Paints, Inks, Paint Thinners,
        Adhesives, Lacquers, Primers
                               Mineral Spirits
        Pottery Glaze
        Cleaning Supplies and
                               Trisodium Phosphate

        Drain Cleaners

                                       Chlorine Gas or Tablets
        Cleaning Supplies
                               Ammonium Hydroxide

        Medical Equipment
                               Mercury (in thermometers and
        De-icer (for sidewalks)
                               Sodium Chloride
                               Ammonium Nitrate
                     Student Participant's Manual


Low Level

Chemicals that have the potential to catch
fire rapidly and burn in the air. Liquids,
gases, and solids (in the form of dusts) can
be flammable and/or explosive.
Examples:      thinner;
        (acetone, alcohols,      acid,
Solid or liquid substance (or mixture of
substances) which is in itself capable by
chemical reaction of producing gas at such
a temperature and pressure and at such a
speed as to cause damage to the
Examples: hydrazine, nitroglycerine,
ammoniurn n/frafe
Chemicals that can burn, irritate, or destroy
living tissue or corrode metal through direct
chemical action. This category includes
strong acids and bases (alkalines), as well
as dehydrating agents and oxidants.
Examples: sulfuric, nitric,  and hydrochloric
      potassium, ammonium, and sodium
hydroxides (bases); hydrogen peroxide or
               Chemicals that cause or contribute to the
               combustion of other materials by yielding
               Examples: nitrates; chlorates; nitrites;
               peroxides; picric acid (crystallized); ethyl
               ether (crystallized); water reactive metals
               (e.g., sodium)

               Chemicals that, even in small amounts, can
               injure living tissue when ingested,  inhaled,
               or absorbed into the skin.
               Examples: mercury, arsenic,
Chemicals that are harmful if swallowed,
inhaled, or in contact with the skin. This
category also includes substances that
cause eye, skin, or respiratory irritation.
Examples: ammonium nitrate,  ferrous

                                                          •  Do not use near an open flame
                                                          •  Store in "flammables only"
                                                             storage cabinet
                                                          •  Do not use near sparks or static
                                                          •  Wear face shield or use glove box
                                                          •  Transport with no sudden
                                                             movements or jostling
                                                             Wear safety glasses
                                                             Wear a long-sleeved shirt
                                                             Wear long pants
                                                             Wear closed-toe shoes
                                                             Wear gloves
 Do not use near an open flame
 Wear safety glasses
 Wear a long-sleeved shirt
 Wear long pants
 Wear closed-toe shoes
 Wear gloves

 No eating or drinking!
 Use a respirator
 Wear safety glasses
 Wear a long-sleeved shirt
 Wear long pants
 Wear closed-toe shoes
 Wear gloves
No eating or drinking!
Wear safety glasses
Wear a long-sleeved shirt
Wear long pants
Wear closed-toe shoes
Wear gloves
                                  Student Participant's Manual



Chemicals that are known or suspected
carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive
toxins, or systemic target organ toxins.
This category also includes any substances
that are aspiration hazards, meaning they
may cause allergic/asthma symptoms or
breathing difficulties when inhaled.
Examples: benzene, carbon
(carcinogens); acrylamide (mutagen);
compounds, mercury compounds
(reproductive toxins)

No eating or drinking!
Use a respirator or face mask
Wear safety glasses
Wear a long-sleeved shirt
Wear long pants
Wear closed-toe shoes
Wear gloves
                  Chemicals that have acute or chronic
                  toxicity toward aquatic life.

                  Examples: dioxin, DDT
                                           •  Do not pour excess down drain
                                             or sink!
                                           •  Do not dump of waste in storm
                                             drain or sewer!
Students should familiarize themselves with
the categories in Table 2 so they can identify
potentially hazardous chemicals found in
their schools and communities. Whenever
you encounter a new chemical, particularly in
school, you should ask yourself, "What type
of chemical is this?  What category does it
belong to?"  Knowing the  category of a
chemical dictates the measures that should
be taken to safely use the chemical. For
example, you would never use a flammable
chemical near an open flame, and you would
be sure to wear gloves, safety glasses, a long-

               are           or
                  If                in
  at                      to

                  if an
        is          in
                    be           in
                                 sleeved shirt, long-sleeved pants, and closed-
                                 toe shoes to protect your skin when using
                                 a corrosive chemical.  The type of gloves
                                 (e.g., latex, nitrile) will vary depending on
                                 the particular chemical.
                                 As the case studies in Section 1.2 illustrate,
                                 accidents can happen anytime teachers and
                                 administrators are not following safe chemical
                                 management practices.  As students, you can
                                 take action to help reduce your exposure to
                                 hazardous chemicals. This section outlines
                                 some steps you can take to help prevent
                                 chemical accidents at your school.  Even the
                                 best practices cannot prevent all accidents,
                                 however, so make sure your school
                                 administrators have an emergency response
                                 and spill cleanup plan in place, in the event
                                 that you have a spill at your school.
                                     Student Participant's Manual

In order to prevent accidents, school
chemicals must be managed safely and
effectively. Successful chemical management
practices involve thoughtful purchase
decisions, careful inventory supervision,
safe storage, and proper disposal.
Examples of old chemicals stored in unsafe containers.

All schools should have a chemical hygiene
officer who supervises the chemical
management process. Effective chemical
management begins with a well-organized
purchasing plan. Over-purchasing of
chemicals is a common mistake schools
make, and the extra, unused chemicals
represent a safety hazard. Encourage your
chemical hygiene officer to purchase the least
number and least toxic versions of chemicals
possible that will meet the needs of teachers
and staff. The chemical hygiene officer
should also monitor the inventories of
chemicals to help prevent the accumulation
of old or expired chemicals. Most chemicals
must be used in a certain time period, or they
will begin to break down, sometimes into
dangerous by-products.  In conjunction with
careful inventory supervision, the  chemical
hygiene officer should establish safe storage
practices for all chemicals in the school.
Many chemicals  are incompatible, such as
acids and bases, and should not be stored
next to each other.  Poor chemical storage
can lead to accidents that could harm you and
your classmates. Take action with your
administrators and chemical hygiene officer
to make sure your school is following safe
chemical storage procedures.

The final step in a good chemical management
program is disposal.  Many of the chemicals
used in schools are considered hazardous
waste, and need to be disposed of safely in
order to prevent contamination of local water
tables, soil, and sediments.  Improper disposal
of hazardous chemicals can result in fires,
explosions, and contamination, with
subsequent toxic exposure to students and
teachers.  In most cases, chemicals should
NOT be rinsed down the drain! Encourage
your school administrators to consult with the
local hazardous waste disposal agency for the
proper ways to safely dispose of chemical
waste from your school.
   Example of incompatible chemical storage:
   when bleach and ammonia are mixed together,
   toxic fumes of chlorine gas are released.
Pollution prevention programs reduce or
eliminate the amount of hazardous waste
created through the routine use of chemicals.
Less waste generated means less waste to
dispose of, which increases the safety of
students, teachers, and administrators.
An example of pollution prevention is
                                     Student Participant's Manual

substituting non-toxic natural cleaning
products for bleach and ammonia.
Encourage administrators to establish a
pollution prevention program in your school
to explore less hazardous alternatives for
chemicals used for cleaning, pest control,
grounds-keeping, and science education.

Green chemistry is a type of pollution
prevention that uses fewer and less toxic
chemicals in experiments, compared to
traditional chemistry curricula.  Microscale
chemistry and small-scale chemistry are
             similar concepts that involve scaling down
             the quantities of chemicals required for
             science experiments, resulting in improved
             laboratory safety. In situations where green
             or small-scale alternatives are not feasible,
             encourage your instructor to conduct a
             demonstration experiment so you and your
             classmates are not required to work with
             hazardous or toxic chemicals. Each of these
             options requires a smaller amount of
             chemicals than traditional experiments, which
             decreases the risk of student exposure to
             hazardous chemicals.
Student Participant's Manual


In recent years, the global community has
become more aware of the hazardous
consequences of mercury exposure.  Many
countries and regions are phasing out the use
of mercury, mercury-containing chemicals,
and mercury-containing equipment and
replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
Nevertheless, mercury, mercury-containing
chemicals and mercury-containing equipment
continue to be used in schools, sometimes
with dire consequences, as the case studies in
Section 1.2 demonstrate. This chapter
describes common mercury sources, uses,
and alternatives, so students  can educate and
protect themselves and their families from
accidental mercury poisoning.
  Mercury is a dense, silver-colored metal. It the
  only element that is liquid at room temperature.
Mercury (Hg) is element number 80 on the
periodic table; it has a molecular weight of
200.59 grams per mole.  It is also called
quicksilver or liquid silver due to its silver
color.  Mercury is unique because it is the
only elemental metal that is liquid at room
temperature.  It is also very dense: mercury is
more than 13.5 times more dense than water
at room temperature.9 Due to its unusually
high density for a liquid, mercury has
traditionally been used in thermometers to
measure temperature and in barometers to
measure atmospheric pressure.  Other
common applications of elemental mercury
include some types of light switches,
batteries, and tooth fillings. Mercury is also
used in the  chlor-alkali industrial process,
which produces hydrogen, sodium, chlorine,
and potassium hydroxides.  In addition, some
people use mercury in various religious and
cultural practices.10 Figure 1 illustrates the
most common worldwide uses of mercury
compounds in 2000, which include batteries,
gold and silver mining, and dental amalgams.
                                                     9 O'Neil, M.J., P.E. Heckelman, C.B. Koch, K.J. Roman,
                                                     (eds.)  2006. The Merck Index: An Encyclopedia of
                                                     Chemicals, Drugs, and Biologicals, Fourteenth Edition.
                                                     Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, NJ, USA.
                                                     10 Riley, Donna M., C. Alison Newby, Tomas O. Leal-
                                                     Almeraz, Valerie M. Thomas. 2001. Assessing Elemental
                                                     Mercury Vapor Exposure from Cultural and Religious
                                                     Practices. Environmental Health Perspectives, l(t<) (8): 779-784.
                                       Student Participant's Manual

                  Dental amalgam, 272
                        tons.. 5%
                                                    Total: 3386 metric tons
         Control Devices. 166
               tons ( 5%
              91 tons.. 3%
              175 tons.
 Electrical control &
 switching, 154 tons/
        Small-scale gold &
           Silver mining
       (artisanal).  650 tons.
                                 Batteries, 1081 tons.
                                                          Chlor-alkai. 797 tons.
                            Figure 1. Worldwide uses of mercury in 2000.11
11 Data from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Roadmap for Mercury: Figure 6, Chapter V (Addressing International Mercury
Sources), 2006, hllp://www.epa.gov/tnerciiiy/road.tnap.him. Accessed March 31, 2008.
Student Participant's Manual

Despite its many uses, mercury is a dangerous
acute (immediate) and chronic (long-term)
poison for humans. The human body quickly
absorbs mercury via contact with the skin,
ingestion (eating), or inhalation (breathing)
of mercury vapor.  Symptoms of acute
mercury poisoning include severe nausea,
vomiting, abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea,
and kidney damage. Chronic effects include
inflammation of mouth and gums, excessive
salivation, loosening of teeth, muscle tremors,
spasms, personality changes, depression,
irritability, and nervousness. Mercury is also
a reproductive toxin, which makes mercury
exposure especially dangerous for women
who are pregnant or could become pregnant.

Although all forms of elemental mercury are
dangerous, elemental mercury vapor is
especially toxic. Mercury vapor is a colorless
and odorless gas, so you do not know when
you are inhaling it. In an enclosed space
like a bedroom or classroom, very high
levels of mercury vapor can be released  from
elemental mercury left open to indoor air.
In the event that elemental mercury is spilled
in schools, homes, or in other enclosed areas,
it is extremely dangerous.

Elemental mercury and compounds
containing mercury exist naturally at relatively
low levels in air, water, rocks, and soil.
Mercury has three different forms: elemental,
inorganic, and organic.  Table  3 lists some
examples of products that contain each of
these forms  of mercury and the ways humans
can be exposed to them.

Inorganic mercury compounds are powders
or crystals formed via reaction of elemental
mercury with other elements, such as
chlorine, sulfur, or oxygen. Inorganic
mercury compounds are also called mercury
salts. They are used in some skin-lightening
creams,  antiseptic creams, and ointments.
School science classes sometimes use
mercury salts in chemistry experiments.
Inorganic mercury does not readily evaporate
so it is not easily inhaled, but it can be
absorbed by contact with skin and by
ingestion. An example of the  inorganic
mineral  mercury sulfide (HgS), also called
cinnabar, is shown in Figure 2.
             3,             of

Inorganic Mercury
("Mercury Salts")
Organic Mercury
(such as methyl
Some types of:
• Thermometers
• Manometers
• Light switches
• Batteries
• Tooth fillings
Some types of:
• Cosmetics
• Skin-lightening creams
• Antiseptic creams
• Ointments
• School chemistry
experiment reagents
• Contaminated fish
• Contaminated shellfish
• Inhalation of vapor
(very dangerous!!!)
• Contact with skin
• Ingestion
• Contact with skin
• Ingestion
• Ingestion
                                     Student Participant's Manual

  Figure 2.  Crystals of mercury sulfide (HgS).

Organic mercury compounds are formed
when mercury combines with carbon in living
systems.  Microorganisms and bacteria in
water, soil, and sediment produce one of the
most common forms of organic mercury,
called methyl mercury. Many living
organisms bioaccumulate methyl mercury,
which means the level of the chemical builds
up in their tissues because they ingest it faster
than their bodies can excrete it.  Figure 3
shows how methyl mercury can
bioaccumulate in the food chain. Animals in
the aquatic ecosystem, such as fish and birds,
are particularly susceptible to methyl mercury
 The Bioaccumulation of
~ ~~~:  Pethylmercyry
Figure 3. Bioaccumulation of methyl mercury in an
aquatic ecosystem.
Red dots indicate the presence of methyl mercury in
plants and animals. The size of the red dot corresponds
to the amount of bioaccumulation; large dots represent
higher concentrations of methyl mercury.
                                         bioaccumulation.  For example, when a
                                         bigger fish, like a tuna, eats a smaller fish, like
                                         a herring, the methyl mercury in the small
                                         fish bioaccumulates in the big fish.
                                         Bioaccumulation can be a problem for people
                                         who eat a significant amount of fish and
                                         shellfish in their diet. When people eat
                                         seafood contaminated with methyl mercury
                                         on a regular basis, the chemical builds up
                                         in their bodies and poisons them over time.
                                         Fetuses, babies, and young children are
                                         particularly susceptible to the chronic effects
                                         of methyl mercury poisoning because the
                                         chemical can  have devastating, irreparable
                                         effects on the developing central nervous
Since mercury is a naturally-occurring
element that is also used industrially and
commercially, both natural processes and
human activities release mercury into the
environment.  Mercury has a global cycle,
shown in Figure 4. Weathering of rocks and
volcano eruptions are examples of natural
processes that introduce mercury into air,
water, and soil. Burning of fossil fuels,
especially coal, is a significant source of
mercury emissions.  In addition, municipal
waste incinerators, landfills, and trash dumps
release elemental mercury from products,
such as thermometers, into the environment.
Mercury in landfills and trash dumps can also
reach lakes, rivers, and oceans by seeping
into the surrounding soils and groundwater.
In this way, mercury switches between its
three forms in the environment and travels
around the world in air, water, sediment, soil,
rocks, and animals.
                           Student Participant's Manual

                                                                      Dry Deposition
                                           Figure 4.  The global mercury cycle.12
12 Northeast Waste Management Officials Association, The Mercury Cycle,
lillp://www.newrnoa.org/preveiilion/lopicluib722/mercury cycle.pdl. Accessed March 31, 2008.
                                                  Student Participant's Manual

There are several industries in Thailand that
use mercury or release it as a by-product.
In 2003, Thailand imported approximately
14 metric tons of mercury, primarily for
application in fluorescent lamp production,
dentistry, and lab analysis. A Ministry of
Industry "green label" program has reduced
the amount of mercury in paint, but up to
25% of paint factories still use mercury in
their manufacturing process. At least four
major thermal power plants in Thailand
currently burn coal to produce electricity;
since all coal contains mercury, burning coal
releases mercury into the air.  Oil and gas
operations have taken steps to reduce
mercury emissions, but many plants still
discharge waste into the Gulf of Thailand
that contains trace amounts of mercury.
Schools use a variety of elemental and
inorganic mercury products, many of which
may come into direct contact with students.
Chemistry students may use mercury salts as
reagents in laboratory reactions.  Science
teachers often use equipment that contains
elemental mercury, such as thermometers and
barometers, to illustrate scientific principles.
Occasionally, teachers keep vials or beakers
of elemental mercury in the classroom to
demonstrate mercury's unique  characteristics
to students studying the periodic table of
elements.  School nurses may use mercury
fever thermometers and mercury
             sphygmomanometers (blood pressure-
             measuring devices) to treat sick students. All
             of these uses of mercury are very dangerous,
             because they could result in spills and
             subsequent acute poisoning of students.
             Mercury can also be  found in building
             equipment, such as fluorescent lamps,
             thermostats,  electrical switches, flow meters,
             and boiler controls.  Some latex paints and
             pesticides also contain mercury.  In most
             cases, mercury in existing building  equipment
             does not pose an immediate risk to students
             and teachers  because the mercury is not easily
             accessible. As mercury-containing building
             materials degrade and break, however, they
             should be replaced with mercury-free
             equipment. The exception is mercury
             fluorescent lamps. Currently, there are no
             general indoor lamps that are more energy
             efficient than mercury-containing fluorescent
             lamps.  As a result, schools should continue
             to use mercury fluorescent lamps for their
             general indoor lighting needs.
    Example of a mercury fluorescent
    lamp on the ceiling of a classroom.
                   Example of a mercury electrical switch.
                   Notice the pool of silver-colored elemental
                   mercury on the left side of the switch.

             3.4                  Do
             Exposure to mercury causes immediate and
             long-term health effects that are especially
             severe for young people. There is no reason
             for you as a student and resident of your
             community to permit yourself to be exposed
             to the hazardous effects of mercury.  In most
             cases where mercury and mercury-containing
             equipment are used, safe and effective non-
Student Participant's Manual

mercury products can be substituted. Inform
your teachers and parents about the toxic
effects of mercury, and encourage them to
eliminate mercury from your school and
home. In the event that you encounter a
mercury spill, make sure you know how to
clean it up safely.  This section will provide
you with tips on how to eliminate mercury in
your world, and how to deal with mercury
safely if you encounter an accident.


There are no safe uses  of mercury or
mercury-containing products in school
classrooms and nurses' offices.  Mercury
thermometers, manometers, and
sphygmomanometers can break and spill
elemental mercury onto counters, desks,
and floors.  The case studies in Section 1.2
describe what can happen when an elemental
mercury spill occurs: acute poisoning of
students and widespread contamination of
schools and homes. Schools should work
towards removing all mercury chemicals and
mercury-containing devices by replacing
them with non-mercury alternatives.  For
example, a mercury-filled thermometer can
be replaced with an alcohol thermometer.

Encourage your school to phase out the use
of all mercury-containing equipment in
classrooms and the building. Offer to be
part of a "Mercury Task Force" with
teachers, administrators, janitors, school
nurses, grounds-keepers, and parents that
leads the effort toward removing all mercury
sources from the school. As mercury
products are identified and removed from the
school, make sure they are disposed of
properly! Encourage your administrators to
contact the local hazardous waste disposal
agency to safely remove mercury sources
from school property.  Do NOT throw
mercury-containing items or chemicals  in the
trash, down the sink, or down the drain!
     Examples of a mercury thermometer (a)
     and an alcohol thermometer (b).
Just as there are no safe uses of mercury and
mercury-containing equipment in schools,
there are no safe uses for these products in
homes, either. Tell your parents about the
toxic effects of mercury, and encourage them
to remove all mercury products from your
home. Common mercury-containing
products found in homes include mercury
thermometers, some cosmetics and face-
lightening creams, some types of batteries,
and mercury electrical switches. If your
family members use elemental mercury for
religious  or cultural ceremonies, explain how
dangerous it is, and encourage them to find
alternative practices that do not involve

Be sure to safely dispose of mercury
products — do not throw anything containing
elemental mercury, such as a thermometer or
battery, in the trash! Check with your local
hazardous waste disposal agency about the
correct way to safely remove mercury
products from your home.
                                    Student Participant's Manual

Another way you can reduce your risk of
mercury exposure at home is by avoiding
seafood with high levels of methyl mercury.
Almost all fish and shellfish contain methyl
mercury, but some fish have higher levels of
methyl mercury than others, as shown in
Table 4.  Adults and children should avoid
shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish,
because these fish have high levels of methyl
mercury. Instead, choose shrimp, canned
light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish,
because they have low levels of methyl
mercury. The U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) recommends that adults eat
no more than approximately 340 grams of
these fish and shellfish each week.  Children
should eat smaller amounts so they limit their
overall exposure to methyl mercury.13

                    to        Up

In the event you encounter a mercury  spill,
you should know how to clean it up safely.
One of the most common causes of mercury
spills is a broken mercury thermometer.
All mercury spills, regardless of size, are
hazardous because elemental mercury  emits
toxic vapors into  the air.  Mercury vapor is
colorless and odorless so you do  not know
when you are inhaling it.  Cleanup of a
mercury spill can be difficult because
elemental mercury is a liquid that easily
             separates into tiny beads that can accumulate
             in very small spaces, such as on carpet fibers
             or between floor tiles.

             Until all the mercury products have been
             removed from your school and home,
             encourage  your parents and teachers to have
             a plan in place in the event of a mercury spill.
             Whenever  possible, a qualified and
             experienced professional cleanup contractor
             should be engaged to cleanup mercury spills.
             Professional cleanup contractors have access
             to specialized equipment that permits safe
             removal of mercury from most non-porous
             surfaces such as smooth concrete, tile floors,
             and counters. In the event a professional
             contractor  is not available, follow the
             "Mercury Spill Cleanup" procedure in
             Appendix A when a mercury spill occurs.
             Treat this procedure like a "fire drill" by
             practicing it several times per year so you,
             your parents, and your teachers become
             familiar with their roles. Assemble a "Spill
             Cleanup Kit," also listed in Appendix A, and
             store it in a secure location so it is readily
             available in the event of an accident.  Note
             that all items involved in cleanup of a
             mercury spill will become contaminated and
             will have to be discarded as hazardous waste,
             so plan accordingly.
             4.               for

         •   Shark
         •   Swordfish
         •   King Mackerel
           •   Shrimp
           •   Canned Light Tuna
           •   Salmon
           •   Pollock
           •   Catfish
13 U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, "What you need
to know about mercury in fish and shellfish,"
llli|X//_WAV W...CP tj. PQl^
Accessed January 31, 2008.
Student Participant's Manual

There are also several things that you should
NOT do in the event of a mercury spill.
Make sure you and the adults cleaning up the
spill do not make the following mistakes.
         up a                Young people
   are more susceptible to mercury poisoning
   than adults, so they should immediately
   leave the area of the spill and go outside
   or into a well-ventilated area.

   Never    a                  to
   up a               The vacuum cleaner
   will volatilize liquid mercury and increase
   exposure to toxic mercury vapors. In
   addition, the vacuum cleaner will become
   contaminated with mercury and will have
   to be discarded.

   Never    a        to        up a
                  The broom will break the
   liquid mercury into tiny beads and spread
   them into small spaces, such as between
   floor tiles or floor boards.  Once mercury
   beads are out  of sight in small spaces,
   they are  very difficult to remove.
   They will remain in the room to volatilize
   and poison adults, children, and pets.
   In addition, the broom will become
   contaminated with mercury and will have
   to be discarded.

   Mercury will contaminate lakes or streams
   where waste water is discharged.  And
   because  mercury is very dense, it can lodge
   in the drain and cause plumbing problems.
   Mercury will contaminate lakes or streams
   where waste water is discharged. In
   addition, the washing machine will
   become contaminated with mercury and
   will have to be discarded.
   items contaminated with mercury will
   vaporize the mercury into its most toxic

   Never throw items
   Items contaminated with mercury are
   hazardous wastes, and they must be
   disposed of properly. Most local trash is
   either transferred to a landfill or burned,
   both of which will release mercury into the
   environment, where it can harm humans
   and wildlife.

                  Cleaners containing
   ammonia or chlorine will react with
   mercury to release toxic gases.
It is important to remember that chemicals
are essential for the effective functioning of
schools. When managed safely, chemicals
provide a wide variety of benefits to students,
teachers, and administrators. However,
chemicals can be dangerous to students and
staff when stored and handled improperly.
Chemicals that are  persistent in the
environment and bio-accumulate through
the food chain are especially hazardous
for children and adolescents. Mercury,
in particular, has long-lasting effects on
human health and the environment. As a
result, mercury-containing thermometers,
equipment, and products should be properly
disposed of and replaced with safer
alternatives when possible.
                                     Student Participant's Manual

Now that you understand the potential health
risks associated with exposure to chemicals,
especially mercury, you can educate other
students. Share the information you have
learned in this workshop with your friends
              and classmates. By working together with
              teachers, school administrators, and your
              parents, you can make your schools and
              communities safer.

                              Police responding to a chemical spill
                              at a school in the USA.
Student Participant's Manual

Use the following procedure to clean up elemental mercury spills safely. Assemble the "Mercury
Spill Cleanup Kit" ahead of time and keep it in a secure location so it is ready in the event of a
mercury accident.
•  5 1-L plastic bags, self-sealing if possible
•  2 large thick plastic trash bags
•  Rubber or latex gloves, at least 1 mm thick - enough for all members of the Cleanup Team; make
   sure gloves fit snugly on the hand
.  1 roll of paper towels
•  1 eyedropper or small plastic pipette
•  1 small plastic bowl
.  1 roll of duct tape
.  1 flashlight
•  1 pair of scissors
•  Extra clean clothing for students  or residents, in case clothes become contaminated and must be
1.   Designate two to three adults to clean up the mercury spill. These individuals will be the
    "Cleanup Team."

2.   The Cleanup Team should determine if anyone involved in the spill has become contaminated
    with mercury on their clothes, shoes, or skin.  Contaminated individuals should remain where
    they are to avoid spreading mercury to other areas. They will be decontaminated by the Cleanup

3.   Everyone who is not contaminated or helping with the cleanup, including children and pets,
    should leave the area immediately.  Be careful when evacuating — make sure no one walks
    through the mercury spill!

4.   Open all windows and doors to the outside and allow fresh air to ventilate the area of the spill.
    Close doors to other parts of the building.
14 Adapted from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Mercury Spill Page, http://www.cpa.gov/mcrciiry/spLlls/indcx.htm.
Accessed February 1, 2008.
15 Adapted from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Mercury Spill Page, hlj^^l//wji^^^a^;o^/l^eJX^lrv/spill£/i^d£xJllm.
Accessed February 1, 2008.
Appendix A
Student Participant's Manual

5.   Retrieve the Mercury Spill Cleanup Kit from its storage location.

6.   All Cleanup Team members should put on rubber or latex gloves.

7.   If any individual has been contaminated with mercury on their clothes, shoes, or skin, the
    Cleanup Team must decontaminate them. Help the contaminated individuals remove
    contaminated clothing and/or shoes very carefully so as to avoid dislodging and spreading
    attached mercury. Place the contaminated clothing and/or shoes into one of the large plastic
    trash bags.  Use the sticky side of a piece of duct tape to carefully remove any mercury that may
    be clinging to exposed skin. Use a new piece of duct tape for each area of exposed skin. Place
    the pieces of duct tape with adhered mercury into a 1 L plastic bag, fold the top of the bag over
    on itself, tape it shut, and place it in the large trash bag with the contaminated clothes.
    Individuals  should use the clean clothes and shoes in the Mercury Spill Cleanup Kit to replace
    their contaminated items. As soon as individuals are de-contaminated, they should evacuate the
    area, being careful not to walk through the mercury spill.

8.   Cleanup Team members should now turn their attention to the mercury spill. Carefully pick up
    any pieces of broken glass or other items mixed in with the mercury spill and place them on a
    paper towel. Be sure not to dislodge any mercury that may be clinging to these broken items.
    Carefully fold the paper towel and place it in one of the  1 L plastic bags. Fold the  top of the bag
    over on itself and tape it shut. Place the sealed 1 L plastic bag in one of the large trash bags.

9.   Mercury is very difficult to remove from fabric items such as carpet, furniture, and draperies.  If
    mercury has spilled on these items, it is preferable to remove the entire item from  the building,
    being earful not to dislodge and distribute the adhering mercury. When removing  the entire
    fabric item is not possible, such as in the case of wall-to-wall carpeting, cut out the contaminated
    area, being careful not to dislodge and spread adhering mercury. Place the contaminated items
    in a large trash bag.

10. If mercury has spilled on a hard surface, such as wood, tile, or linoleum, locate  the visible
    mercury beads. Line the bottom of the plastic bowl with a damp paper towel.  Use the
    eyedropper or small plastic pipette to carefully suck up visible mercury beads and drop them on
    the damp paper towel in the plastic bowl. Mercury is fairly viscous, so it can flow  quickly over
    hard surfaces, thus it is important to carefully collect mercury beads without dislodging them.
    Use the flashlight to illuminate  the floor at an angle in order to locate all mercury beads.  Be sure
    to scan the  entire area since mercury can travel long distances on hard surfaces. When you have
    removed all of the visible mercury beads, carefully place the plastic bowl containing the mercury
    into a 1 L plastic  bag, fold the top of the bag over on itself and tape it shut.  Place  the
    eyedropper or small plastic pipette into a separate 1 L plastic bag, fold the top of the bag over on
    itself and tape it shut.  Place the sealed 1 L plastic bags in one of the large trash bags.

11. After you have removed all the visible beads, carefully press the sticky side of a piece of duct
    tape on the surface of the spill to remove any small, less visible beads. Use a new piece of duct
    tape for each area of the spill.  Carefully place the pieces of duct tape with adhered mercury into
    a 1 L plastic bag, fold the top of the bag over on itself and tape it shut.  Place the sealed 1 L
    plastic bag in one of the large trash bags.

12. After the Cleanup Team has completely cleaned up the spill, all Team members should remove
    their gloves and place them in one of the large trash bags.  If any clothes or shoes  have become
    contaminated with mercury, they should also be placed in one of the large trash bags. Then the
    tops of the  large trash bags should be carefully folded over and completely sealed with duct tape.
IA-2                                  Student Participant's Manual                             Appendix A

    Label the trash bags: "HAZARDOUS!  CONTAINS ELEMENTAL MERCURY!" in large,
    clearly visible letters.

13. Remove the bags containing the contaminated items to a safe holding place outside of the
    school or house. Consult your local municipal waste authority or hazardous wasted disposal
    agency for guidance on how to safely dispose of the bags containing the contaminated items.

14. Keep the windows open to the outside for at least 24 hours to allow any traces of mercury vapor
    to dissipate from the building.  Continue to keep children and pets out of the spill area for at
    least 24 hours.  If anyone present during the spill begins to feel ill, seek medical attention
Appendix A                             Student Participant's Manual                                  IA-3