Behaviour in case of a chemical accident
Mercury is a toxic substance, the effect of which manifests upon inhalation of the vapours of the substance. The breaking of a thermometer or an incandescent bulb is not a cause for panic, as the amount of mercury in them is too small to cause severe consequences. However, as the long-term effects of an even a small amount of mercury vapour are hazardous to humans, the scattered mercury must be collected as soon as possible in accordance with the instructions given below.
1. Collect the scattered mercury.
Prevent the access of other people (and domestic animals!) to the area where the mercury has spilled and ventilate the room.
There are different ways to collect the substance – you can use a shovel, a syringe, a pipette, or a cotton cloth impregnated with a potassium permanganate solution.
Drops of mercury should be collected with a plastic, rubber, cardboard, or other scraper to a shovel. The use of a brush is not recommended, as it is difficult to wipe mercury droplets into the shovel by brush, and the droplets disintegrate into smaller droplets when exposed to the brush.
Mercury drops can also be collected with a syringe (without a needle) or a pipette. You can also use cotton swabs impregnated with potassium permanganate solution for gathering the droplets. Place the used cotton, syringe, or pipette in a plastic bag. Do not throw it in the trash bin!
When cleaning, avoid mercury getting onto the body and clothing. Do not carry around the contamination as you move around!
After collecting the substance, ventilate the room with fresh air!
Clothes, carpets, and furniture contaminated with mercury must be aired outside for at least 24 hours!
Mercury does not react with water (also not with hot water). If the thermometer breaks in a hot water cup, allow it to cool again and pour mercury from the cup together with the water into a closed vessel.
2. Put the gathered mercury into a closed vessel.
Put the previously gathered mercury into a closed vessel.
To prevent the evaporation of the mercury contained in the vessel, a layer of water of at least 5 cm may be poured onto the mercury, and the vessel may then be closed.
Store the gathered substance at a temperature below + 20 °C.
3. Taking the mercury to a safe place.
Do not throw the mercury into the trash bin and do not pour it down the sink or a toilet!
Dispose of the hazardous waste as soon as possible to a municipal hazardous waste collection point. The syringe, cotton, pipette, etc. used for cleaning should be brought into the hazardous waste collection point. Hazardous waste collection points are usually located at larger petrol stations. Reception of hazardous waste is free of charge. For information, contact your local municipality government.
In case of a larger mercury pollution or ingestion of mercury, call 112!
Accidents cannot be completely ruled out. However, by raising your awareness of the potential dangers and the right behaviour, you can do a great deal to protect yourself and your loved ones.