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 or need training on chemical spill prevention and response, contact the Industrial Hygiene Manager or call 828-262-4008.