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HEALTH CONSULTATION

SARASOTA RESIDENTIAL MERCURY SPILL
SARASOTA, SARASOTA COUNTY, FLORIDA


SUMMARY AND STATEMENT OF ISSUES

The purpose of this health consultation is to respond to a request for assistance from the Sarasota County Health Department (CHD) to the Florida Department of Health (DOH) to evaluate the results of indoor air and urine mercury samples collected by the Sarasota CHD. The Florida Department of Health (DOH), in cooperation with the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), evaluated both indoor air and urine mercury levels for four Sarasota, Florida residents.

On May 20, 2002, a Sarasota teen spilled liquid mercury inside her family's house, contaminating both counter tops and carpet. The family moved out while a contractor cleaned the house. Air tests showed the cleanup was successful and mercury levels were no longer a health threat. Urine tests confirmed that the family had not been exposed to harmful levels of mercury. Five days after the spill, the family returned.


SITE DESCRIPTION AND HISTORY

On May 20, 2002, the City of Sarasota discovered a mercury spill of approximately 1 cup in volume along Spyglass Hill Road (Figures 1 and 2). Cars had driven through the spill. That same day, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) restricted access and cleaned up the spill. A few residents were concerned they had tracked the mercury into their homes. Florida DEP and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that because of the small amount spilled and the quick cleanup time, it was unlikely that nearby residents had tracked substantial amounts of mercury into their homes.

Also on May 20, 2002, a teenager found a small (8-10 ounce) bottle of mercury along Spyglass Hill Road and took it home. While investigating the bottle's contents she and her teenage brother spilled mercury on the kitchen counters and on the living room carpet. The family vacated the home that night.

On May 21, 2002, the family reported the spill to the Sarasota County Health Department (CHD.

On May 23, the four family members delivered urine samples to the Sarasota CHD. The Florida DOH coordinated the analysis for mercury (and creatinine). The Florida DOH suggested the family see their physician if they experienced any health effects. Florida DOH provided information to the family about mercury exposure and the roles of the different agencies. The Florida DOH also told the owner would receive a copy of the health consultation.

During the week of May 23, 2002, a contractor hired by the family cleaned up the spilled mercury. The contractor removed the carpeting where most of the mercury was found, and cleaned the counters. The contractor tested the air in the home for mercury using a Jerome meter. The EPA also tested the air using a more sensitive Lumex meter. The highest concentration of mercury detected was 43 micrograms per cubic meter of air (ug/m3). On May 24, the Florida DOH and Sarasota CHD informed the residents that the concentrations of mercury measured in the indoor air (including the maximum mercury level) did not pose a public health threat. The family moved back in the home the same day.

In a letter dated June 6, 2002, Florida DOH informed the family that their urine mercury levels were within the laboratory's reference range and below the national average. This letter also summarized earlier conversations with the homeowner stating the maximum mercury air concentrations detected were not likely to cause health effects.


DISCUSSION

Mercury in Air

The Florida DOH determined no serious health effects were likely at the maximum mercury levels of 43 ug/m3 measured in the home. After cleanup and ventilation of the home, the measured indoor air levels decreased to 0.5 ug/m3.

Mercury in Urine

As a precaution, the Sarasota CHD tested the urine mercury levels of the four residents. The Florida DOH coordinated this sampling event. A urine mercury measurement is reliable, simple, and provides rapid identification of individuals exposed to mercury. Mercury urine levels peak immediately after exposure. The highest urine levels are measured within 72 hours (3 days). The half-life for mercury in the body is 40-70 days.

The four family members collected their urine samples early in the morning of May 23 in trace-free containers supplied by the National Medical Services (NMS) Laboratory in Pennsylvania. The Sarasota CHD packaged the samples and shipped them overnight to the NMS Laboratory. The NMS laboratory also measured creatinine levels to determine how diluted the urine was. The family's mercury urine levels were less than average urine levels for the general population (4-5 micrograms per liter, µg/L). Their urine levels were also less than average urine levels from studies found in ATSDR's Toxicological Profiles (ATSDR 1999). Their creatinine levels were also within the normal range. The results indicate the family was not exposed to mercury at levels likely to cause illness. Florida DOH informed the family and their physician of its findings and provided information about mercury exposure.


CHILD HEALTH INITIATIVE

The Sarasota household where the mercury spill occurred includes two teenagers but no small children. Because the measured indoor air mercury air levels are below health guidelines and the mercury urine levels of the two teenagers in the household are within the normal range, exposure to the mercury spill at this residence is unlikely to cause illness.


CONCLUSIONS

Based on the information evaluated in this report, the Sarasota Residential Mercury spill is categorized as a no apparent public health hazard. Because indoor air mercury levels were below health guidelines and urine mercury levels were determined to be below average, the Sarasota family is unlikely to suffer illness from exposure to the residential mercury spill.


RECOMMENDATIONS/PUBLIC HEALTH ACTION PLAN

The Florida DOH does not have any recommendations at this time.


REFERENCES

  1. [ATSDR] Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. 1999. Toxicological profile for mercury. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services.

PREPARERS OF THE REPORT

Susan Bland
Biological Scientist
Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology
Florida Department of Health


Florida DOH Designated Reviewer

Randy Merchant
Program Administrator
Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology
Florida Department of Health


ATSDR Technical Project Officer

Debra Gable
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Superfund Site Assessment Branch
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry


FIGURES

Florida Counties
Figure 1. Florida Counties

Sarasota Mercury Spill Spyglass Hill Road
Figure 2. Sarasota Mercury Spill Spyglass Hill Road


CONSENT FORM FOR PARTICIPATION:
SARASOTA MERCURY EXPOSURE INVESTIGATION

(Participant Consent for Urine Testing)

Click here to view this Consent Form in PDF format (PDF, 33KB)


CERTIFICATION

The Sarasota Residential Mercury Spill Health Consultation was prepared by the Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology, under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. It is in accordance with approved methodology and procedures existing at the time the health consultation was begun.

Debra Gable
Technical Project Officer,
SPS, SSAB, DHAC
ATSDR


The Division of Health Assessment and Consultation, ATSDR, has reviewed this health consultation, and concurs with its findings.

Richard Gillig
for Roberta Erlwein
Section Chief,
SPS, SSAB, DHAC,
ATSDR

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