hazardous waste disposal Hazardous Waste Removal Mercury Mercury Spills and Removal

Disturbed Mercury: Why a Mercury Spill Is So Toxic

Mercury is a heavy, silver-colored element used in a variety of industries. While mercury has many uses, it should always be handled and transported safely if spilled. Disturbed mercury is especially dangerous because of the hazardous vapors it releases into the environment. If you don’t know how to handle and transport mercury properly, there could be toxic – or even fatal – consequences.

Watch This Video: Mercury – The Hazard You Don’t See

Disturbed mercury

Courtesy of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services 

Undisturbed, contained mercury is like a hornets’ nest tucked underneath a doorway that rarely sees the light of day. But that hornets’ nest has the potential to wreak havoc on its surroundings if disturbed or poked. Once disturbed, a swarm of angry, stinging hornets is headed your way! The same holds true for disturbed mercury: It can wreak havoc on its surroundings by releasing odorless and colorless vapors that are harmful when inhaled.


Rader’s Mercury Spill Cleanup Services Are World-Renowned

Rader has specialized in mercury removal and mercury spill cleanups for over 30 years. Our approach to mercury decontamination is the result of a long-standing interest in the science of elemental mercury. Depending on conditions, most mercury spills can be cleaned up with a mercury recovery vacuum.

Before determining how to clean up a mercury spill at your facility, a  hazardous materials expert will visit your site with a Lumex 915 Plus Mercury Vapor Analyzer to determine the most effective way to decontaminate and remove elemental mercury from your facility.

During the actual mercury removal phase of a project, Rader’s team of workers wear respirators equipped with mercury vapor cartridges and standard Level C Protection. All workers have both Hazardous Materials Worker Training and Mercury Awareness Training. In addition, all workers participate in a medical evaluation program.  

Handling Microscopic Mercury Spills

In most cases, mercury can be remediated with a mercury recovery vacuum. But, this process could still leave behind microscopic and/or embedded mercury contamination. Mercury vapor continues to be released if any elemental mercury remains after the visible (unmagnified) mercury spill cleanup is completed. Rader understands this and has developed effective mercury spill cleanup methods that effectively clean both visible and microscopic mercury molecules. 

Providing Proprietary Solutions to Mercury Spills

Chemists at Rader recognized in the early days of the company that all commercially available mercury vapor reduction compounds are basically suppressants that stop the release of mercury vapor. However, the suppressing effects may not last long and the only permanent solution may be to completely remove all microscopic traces of mercury.

With that in mind, we developed a procedure to remove elemental mercury, rendering suppressants obsolete. Key Clean and Rader Reducer are the chemicals that Rader developed to achieve this. These substances work by suspending the microscopic elemental mercury in a solution so that it can be collected using either a mercury vacuum, cloth rags or other media depending on the surface to be cleaned.

Mercury cleanup experts

Key Clean and Rader Reducer, although integral to the process, cannot permanently remove elemental mercury. Knowledge of the substrate and its conditions are also important. Rader has the knowledge to recognize and address these conditions, allowing Rader’s solutions to work.

Mercury spills occur in many places and on many different surfaces. When elemental mercury droplets shatter, they adhere to surfaces both horizontal and vertical. They also make their way into cracks, crevices and anything else slightly porous. Cleaning spilled mercury from rough or smooth concrete is different than cleaning it from floor tile or steel. At the same time, floor tile or steel is different than cleaning mercury from hardwood floors. 

Handling Mercury Spills in Industrial Settings 

If the spill has occurred in an industrial setting and the contaminated surfaces are full of grease and grime, it may be necessary to address these contaminants at the same time the mercury is addressed. In addition to removing elemental mercury, Rader products don’t harm most surfaces, unlike the commercially available chemicals which may react with different metals and can be corrosive. Rader’s chemicals are even safe for aluminum and have been successfully used to decontaminate commercial aircraft.

Removing Mercury from Personal Belongings

Many times, a mercury spill will contaminate personal belongings that cannot be replaced. However, the Rader team has devised many different techniques to decontaminate and save your personal belongings. Certain porous items, however, such as shoes, carpeting, etc., are not easily cleaned. It is possible to launder some clothing items using our proprietary chemicals so that they can be safely worn again. Sometimes, it may be more prudent to replace items rather than decontaminate them. Our team has the experience to know the difference, thereby saving you time and money.

Handling Mercury Spills at Superfund Sites  

In very large mercury spills/contamination situations, Rader offers a competitive advantage with its knowledge of laboratory analysis, waste characterization and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). This institutional knowledge, combined with Rader’s proprietary chemicals and its vast mercury cleanup experience, demonstrates that the Rader Mercury Removal Method is one of the most effective in the hazardous waste disposal industry.

Contact Rader Environmental for your no-obligation mercury spill quote.

hazardous waste disposal Mercury

5 Ways to Protect Your Workers from a Mercury Spill

Mercury-containing devices can be found in almost every setting imaginable. Industrial facilities, medical facilities, personal residences, underground public transit, retail establishments and more are among the places where you can find these devices. Staff and contractors, such as cleaning crews, who come on-site to perform services are at risk if exposed to a mercury-containing device that shatters or breaks.

5 Things to Always Keep in Mind 

  1. There is always a potential for a mercury spill if a mercury-containing device is on your site.
  2. Dedicated cleaning equipment can eliminate the risk of contaminated equipment entering or leaving your business.
  3. Train all personnel (your employees and contract personnel) to recognize mercury and what to do in case of a mercury spill.
  4. Replace mercury-containing devices with non-mercury containing devices whenever possible.
  5. If you must utilize mercury-containing devices, train all personnel what to do in case of a mercury spill and the hazards of mercury.

Cleaning Companies Are at High Risk

Cleaning companies that offer their services on a contract basis are prime examples of a potentially at-risk group if exposed to mercury. Cleaning services often customize their schedules and work tasks to meet their clients’ needs. Services can include vacuuming, mopping, dusting and cleaning windows.  Most cleaning is done after business hours or a specified shift.

Cleaning companies can provide their own cleaning equipment, which may be dedicated to a client’s site or the cleaning company may use their equipment on multiple sites.  Some companies mandate the cleaning company use in-house owned equipment only.  Equipment use may also be a combination of the above.

A Case Study: Responding to a Cleaning Company Spill

Rader Environmental recently responded to a mercury spill at a pediatric care center.  The spill was caused by a leaking mercury-containing sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff).  In fact, it was somewhat of a fluke that the spill was ever realized by the pediatric care center.

Two contract cleaning personnel that had cleaned the pediatric care center after business hours just happened to be talking the next morning about a blood pressure cuff that was mounted on wheels leaked some “silver stuff” on the floor while they where moving it to vacuum.  Their manager happened to overhear the conversation and realized that they were more than likely talking about mercury.

The manager of the cleaning company immediately contacted the pediatric care center and told them what may have happened the night before during their routine nightly cleaning.  The pediatric care center contacted the local health department, which arranged for the air inside of the facility to be tested for mercury vapor.

Mercury Vapor Can Reak Havok on a Business

Mercury vapor was found to be at levels unsafe for occupancy.  The pediatric care center was forced to close for business until mercury was abated to safe levels for re-occupancy. Pregnant women and toddlers – the main clientele at this facility – are the most sensitive population to mercury vapor exposure.

Further assessment of the facility indicated that mercury had been spread throughout the facility by the vacuum cleaner.

The Double Whammy

The same vacuum cleaner that was used at the pediatric care center was then taken to another local business and used to vacuum the carpet.  Mercury vapor readings indicated mercury levels too high for occupancy at this business, forcing the business to close its doors until mercury cleanup was completed.

Fortunately, these were the only two offices that were cleaned by the contaminated vacuum. By chance, the cleaning company’s manager happened to overhear the two employees talk about the silver substance they saw while vacuuming.

Both offices were abated and re-opened for business.

The mercury spill in the pediatrics care center could have very easily been overlooked exposing staff and patients to mercury levels that are hazardous to one’s health for an unknown amount of time.

Contact Rader Environmental for your no-obligation mercury spill quote.