Cleanup instructions for small mercury spills - revised
Exposure to the small amount of mercury found in common household devices, such as fever thermometers, thermostats, or fluorescent light bulbs, is not likely to cause serious health problems. Humans are frequently exposed to greater quantities of mercury, much of it methylmercury, through diet. Nevertheless, all mercury spills, regardless of quantity, should be treated seriously and cleaned up correctly.
When liquid mercury is spilled, it forms droplets. These droplets then evaporate and create a vapour that is odourless and colourless. Mercury is toxic to the human nervous system and exposure to the vapour may result in adverse health effects, if exposure is prolonged or high levels of mercury are present in the air. Small children and developing fetuses are most susceptible to the adverse effects of mercury.
The cleanup recommendations in this document are based on best management practices used by environmental health practitioners. They are derived from the experiences of individuals at the BC Centre for Disease Control, from guidelines written by other jurisdictions and those provided by Environment Canada.