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HEALTH CONSULTATION

Health Implications of Mercury Spill at the Subway Sandwich Shop

NEON PLANT FACTORY
(a/k/a TEXARKANA MERCURY AND NEON)
TEXARKANA, MILLER COUNTY, ARKANSAS
CERCLIS NO. AR0002263275

May 13, 1998

Prepared by:

Arkansas Department of Health
Under Cooperative Agreement with
The Agency For Toxic Substance and Disease Registry


BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF ISSUES

On January 8, 1998, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 6 contacted thehealth department sanitarian for Miller County. The Subway Sandwich Shop located within theEZ Mart at 3920 Jefferson in Texarkana, Arkansas, had reported a mercury spill that occurredapproximately two weeks earlier. A youth had broken a bottle containing elemental mercury onthe counter top. The Subway Sandwich Shop employee used a wet rag to clean the mercury spilland continued to use the same rag to clean up the food preparing surfaces. Some of the mercuryhad fallen to the floor and a broom was used to sweep up the mercury .

The sanitarian requested assistance from the central office of the Arkansas Department of Health(ADH) in determining if the Subway Sandwich Shop should be closed to the public. Furthermoreif the sandwich shop was to be closed, the sanitarian needed assistance in determining if the entireEZ Mart should be closed and at what ambient air levels of mercury that re-entry to the buildingscould be made.


DISCUSSION

The EPA START Team conducted an initial screening of the Subway Sandwich Shop and EZMart with a Jerome mercury vapor analyzer. ADH was provided with a copy of the ambient airlevels measured within the EZ Mart/Subway (See Appendix A, Table 1.). Based on the results ofthe environmental sampling, it was determined that exposure to elemental mercury could haveoccurred to those residents of Texarkana who frequented the EZ Mart/Subway. Possible routesof exposure were ingestion of elemental mercury from contaminated food or inhalation ofelemental mercury vapors while in the store.

Several of the Jerome readings were above 10µg/m3. The ADH determined that there was anurgent health hazard and closed the Subway Sandwich Shop to the public on January 8, 1998. The ADH also closed the EZ Mart on January 8, 1998 out of concern that cross contaminationfrom the Subway area may have or would occur. Closing the EZ Mart also facilitated theremediation efforts.

ADH concurred with EPA representatives on a clean-up level of <10 µg/m3 mercury in ambientair for the reopening of the Subway Sandwich Shop and EZ Mart (1). Final air sampling resultstaken after remediation have not been provided.

While the EZ Mart/Subway Sandwich Shop was considered an urgent public health hazard andclosed to the public, the estimated levels of exposure to the public were considered very lowbecause of the limited time they would spend in the shop. No data exists for blood mercury levelsor urine mercury levels for members of the community that may have frequented the EZMart/Subway Sandwich Shop, but there are blood mercury levels and urine mercury levels for theemployee of the Subway Sandwich with the greatest exposure duration. The results of theemployee's blood and urine samples were below detection limits (<3µg/l)(2).


CONCLUSIONS

1. Exposure to ambient air levels of mercury levels in the EZ Mart/Subway Sandwich Shop priorto remediation presented an urgent public health hazard.

2. Because the facility was commercial, the public had very limited exposure to the contaminantas a vapor. An employee of the sandwich shop, blood and urine mercury levels were below levelsof detection.

3. There were no reported or suspected incidences of ingestion of the contaminant directlyrelated to the mercury spill at EZ Mart/Subway.


RECOMMENDATIONS

1. The EZ Mart and Subway Sandwich Shop should be reopened when ambient air levels ofmercury <10µg/m3 are confirmed.

2. No further biological sampling is recommended since the employee with the longest exposureduration did not have elevated mercury levels.

Appendix A.


Table 1.

Mercury Levels
EPA ENVIRONMENTAL SAMPLING RESULTS mg/m3      
1205 E. ST.(HWY 71) E-Z MART/SUBWAY        
         
LOCATION 1/8/98 READING 1 READING 2 READING 3 AVG
Ambient Entry 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Front of Register Tile 0.004 0.000 0.009 0.004
Under Counter 0.134 0.239 0.155 0.176
Ambient by Counter 0.006 0.004 0.005 0.005
Under Register 0.005 0.005 0.005 0.005
Fresh Air 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Tile at Drink Dispenser 0.037 0.025 0.031 0.031
KITCHEN AMBIENT RESET        
Ambient Kitchen 0.005 0.003 0.004 0.004
Sink Rag 0.005 0.005 0.005 0.005
Dust Mop 0.039 0.041 0.045 0.042
Kitchen Ambient Retest 0.010 0.005 0.004 0.006
Kitchen Green Straw Broom 0.003 0.006 0.005 0.005
Mop 0.014 0.008 0.013 0.012
Black Handle Broom 0.003 0.005 0.007 0.005
BEHIND THE FOOD COUNTER        
Under Counter on Tile 0.015 0.014 0.014 0.014
Tile Under Food Staging Area 0.005 0.005 0.006 0.005
Tile Under Food Staging Area 0.006 0.006 0.006 0.006
Tile at Safe 0.014 0.012 0.012 0.013
Ambient at Counter 0.005 0.003 0.003 0.004
Retest of Front Tile 0.098 0.114 0.191 0.134
Fresh Air 0.007 0.000 0.000 0.002
Counter Top Cracks 0.008 0.007 0.006 0.007
Under Cutting Board 0.010 0.011 0.014 0.012
Middle 0.056 0.061 0.081 0.066
by Window 0.040 0.026 0.019 0.028
Inside Register 0.000 0.000 0.004 0.001
Cash Tray 0.000 0.004 0.005 0.003
Counter Cracks by Window 0.014 0.011 0.009 0.011
Under Microwave 0.009 0.007 0.007 0.008
Crack b/w Wall and Counter 0.007 0.007 0.007 0.007
Coke Dispenser Counter 0.005 0.006 0.005 0.005
Fresh Air 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
CONVENIENCE STORE AREA        
Entry Red Mat 0.008 0.005 0.004 0.006
  0.011 0.009 0.009 0.010
  0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Dust Mop 0.070 0.070 0.068 0.069
Ambient Freezer Area 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Dust Pan 0.004 0.004 0.004 0.004
Straw Brooms 0.013 0.000 0.016 0.015
Ambient Drink Area 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Table 1(continued)        
Location Reading 1 Reading 2 Reading 3 AVG
Mop 0.121 0.068 0.188 0.126
Ambient Storage Area 0.007 0.011 0.004 0.007
Fresh Air 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Snack Aisle Close to Subway 0.003 0.000 0.000 0.001



REFERENCES

  1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 6, Correspondence with Pat Hammack,On-sight Clean-up Coordinator.
  2. National Medical Services Laboratory Results CVAAS Method: Detection Limit 3µg/l forblood or urine.

CERTIFICATION

The Health Implications of the Mercury Spill at the Subway Sandwich Shop in Texarkana, MillerCounty, Arkansas Health Consultation was prepared by the Arkansas Department of Health undera Cooperative Agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). It is in accordance with approved methodology and procedures existing at the time the HealthConsultation was initiated.

Tina Forrester
Technical Project Officer, SPS, SSAB, DHAC

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

Richard Gillig
Chief, SPS, SSAB, DHAC, ATSDR

  
 
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