Mercury in Your School

Why should you be concerned about mercury in your school?


A man in a white lab coat instructs students in a classroom.
  1. Mercury is dangerous.

    Mercury poisoning can affect the nervous system, lungs, and kidneys.

  2. There are still many sources of mercury in schools today.

    You may think that mercury is no longer a problem, but it’s still around. Some of the most common sources are:

    • Glass thermometers
    • Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs
    • Medical equipment
    • Gauges and other science equipment
    • Thermostats, switches, and other electrical devices
  3. If mercury spills, you will have a serious problem on your hands.

    Mercury spills are dangerous — and they can be very difficult to clean up.

    • Most people get mercury poisoning by breathing in vapors.
    • It’s expensive to clean up a mercury spill. Costs of clean-up have run as high as $750,000.
    • Cleanup efforts can disrupt your school’s schedule; you could lose valuable classroom time.

That’s why prevention is so important.
Click here for a poster [PDF – 4MB] to keep your school mercury free.

Tools to get you started:

Does your school have a mercury policy? To keep your school safe from the dangers of mercury, it’s important to have a policy in place that covers mercury in your school district.

Use this checklist [PDF 190KB] to find out if there’s mercury in your school. If you don’t know where mercury could be found in your school, you aren’t alone. Learn about common sources [PDF – 352KB] of mercury — including products that you and your students use every day.

Learn about safe alternatives [PDF – 150KB] for products that contain mercury. One of the best ways to prevent mercury poisoning in your school is to learn about safe alternatives for products you use that contain mercury. Make your school safer by making some very simple changes.

Get rid of mercury safely.
When mercury is found in your school, there are things you need to do to get rid of it safely. Find out how to get mercury out of your school the right way — and keep everyone safe in the process.

Make sure you know who to call. Complete this contact sheet [PDF – 174KB] and hang it in the main office near a phone. Also post a copy in every science lab. To get the contact information for your state’s health and environmental agencies, check: http://www.epa.gov/epahome/state.htm

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Page last reviewed: September 10, 2018