Mercury Spill

Follow these steps to respond to a mercury spill:

  1. Cordon off the area to prevent mercury from being tracked. Secure with signs and warning tape, or post staff to prevent anyone from entering the affected area.
  2. Collect spilled mercury using a disposable pipette, syringe or other aspirator and dispense into a container with lid (e.g. glass vial).
  3. Thoroughly check the area around the spill to find mercury droplets that may have rolled away or into cracks. A flashlight is particularly useful because the mercury will reflect the light.
  4. Sprinkle mercury absorbent powder (Hg Absorb™, zinc powder, or sulfur) over the affected spill area to amalgamate droplets that are too small to be seen. Make sure to include cracks and corners.
  5. Sweep up the reacted powder, place it in a heavy duty plastic bag or container with lid.
  6. Thoroughly clean the area with soap and water.
  7. Dispose of collected mercury, and all mercury contaminated powder and items as hazardous waste.

Small amounts of spilled mercury such as individual droplets may also be absorbed with a mercury sponge:

  1. Place the sponge on the spilled mercury until all mercury is absorbed.
  2. Place the sponge and any contaminated materials (such a broken thermometers) in a sturdy plastic bag and dispose of as hazardous waste.
  3. Thoroughly clean the area with soap and water.

Independent of the method used for clean-up, it is always recommended to use a commercially available mercury indicator to make sure the area is completely decontaminated.

Do NOT use a broom or a regular vacuum or shop vacuum cleaner for mercury because it will release mercury vapors and become contaminated.

For large spills, or if the spill includes difficult to reach areas, contact F&S (333-0340) to request clean-up using a special mercury vacuum cleaner (there will be a charge). Porous material, that is contaminated with mercury may be difficult or impossible to clean up and may have to be discarded.

More information on mercury can be found  here.

Last Update: 7/8/2015