Hazardous Chemical Releases

Chemical Releases At Work

The App State Hazardous Chemical Spill Response Policy explains the general steps to take in case of a chemical spill at App State.

A Word about Mercury

One of the most common and costly releases of a hazardous chemical is mercury, also called "quicksilver." Proper cleanup of a mercury spill is essential. Mercury droplets that hide in cracks and crevices will evaporate slowly, releasing mercury vapor into the air for a long time. Inhaling mercury vapor is much more toxic than ingesting pure mercury liquid.

Small, well-contained mercury releases (such as a thermometer in lab hood, or a broken fluorescent bulb) can be cleaned up by properly trained App State employees. This training is part of each employee's job-specific Hazard Communication or Laboratory Standard training, which supervisors are required to provide to employees upon first being assigned. Larger spills and poorly-contained releases (such as spillage of liquid mercury onto a carpet, a spill that has been tracked around, or a broken thermometer in a lab oven) will generally need to be cleaned up by a professional hazardous material cleanup company. The cleanup materials and any contaminated items will usually have to be disposed of as hazardous waste.

The S&WC Office encourages all departments to replace mercury-containing devices with mercury free devices to the extent possible. The reported average cost to clean up a single broken thermometer is about $5,000.

If you should break a mercury fever thermometer or CFL in your home, these two resources will help you clean it up safely:

Some Watauga County Convenience Centers accept whole and broken CFLs in sealed plastic bags. They also have periodic household hazardous waste collection days, during which a broken fever thermometer can be turned in at no charge. See the Watauga County Solid Waste & Recycling Department's website for more information.

How Can I Find Out More?

If you have questions that are not answered on these webpages, in the Spill/Slug Control Plan, or need training on chemical spill prevention and response, contact the Industrial Hygiene Manager or call 828-262-4008.