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Mercury spills

Mercury is a toxin that can affect the human nervous system and damage the liver and kidneys. Even small amounts of spilled mercury are a health hazard, because mercury volatilizes at room temperature and people may be exposed to toxic levels through inhalation.

Spilled mercury is also a concern because it contributes to mercury pollution of the atmosphere. Mercury in rain contaminates lakes, causing significant fish contamination. Even a small amount of mercury is a concern — the atmosphere brings about one gram of mercury each year (an amount equal to the mercury contained in one fever thermometer) to a 20-acre lake.

Information on the health effects of mercury exposure is available from the National Library of Medicine.

Who to call in case of a spill:

Call North Dakota Waste Management (www.ndhealth.gov/wm).

During normal business hours:  1-701-328-5166

Emergency response number:  1-800-472-2121

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers advice on what to do and what to avoid when mercury is spilled: Mercury Spill Information