Protecting Public Health and the Environment.

How to Prevent a Mercury Spill at Your School

  • Conduct a mercury audit to determine if any elemental mercury or mercury-containing instruments exist.
  • Replace mercury-containing instruments and products such as thermometers or blood pressure cuffs with non-mercury alternatives. For immobile items, such as thermostats or switches, place labels indicating they contain mercury so when they need to be replaced they can be properly handled and disposed of. For items with no alternatives, such as fluorescent light bulbs, properly handle, store, and recycle to prevent spills.
  • Properly dispose of or recycle elemental mercury, mercury compounds, and mercury-containing instruments and products.  It is always more cost effective to dispose of mercury than clean it up.  Contact your county solid waste department to determine if a household hazardous waste program is available for schools.  If a household hazardous waste program is not available, contact a hazardous waste contractor or recycler and notify your elected officials that schools need affordable options for recycling or disposing of mercury.  You can also contact the manufacturer of the product; many will recycle the item for free, especially if you purchase the mercury-free alternative from them.  View fluorescent bulb information on recycling bulbs.
  • Implement and enforce a no-mercury policy to prevent the purchase of mercury-containing items if alternatives exist and to prevent mercury from entering the school. Note that even if schools have a no-mercury policy, they can continue to have mercury spills if students and staff are not educated on the policy. Therefore, consider including information about mercury in staff meetings and new employee trainings and designate your school as a Mercury-Free Zone.

Be Prepared for a Mercury Spill

  • Designate a professional spill cleanup firm to respond, or
  • Assign a competent, trained staff person to be immediately notified in case of a spill. Designated staff need to be trained in the appropriate use of a mercury spill kit, cleanup procedures, required personal protective clothing, decontamination and disposal.
  • Establish emergency plans for small spills (less than 2 tablespoons) and for large spills (more than 2 tablespoons or one pound). Get professional spill response help for large spills or if mercury contaminates carpeting or porous flooring. (See yellow pages under Environmental Services for a list of contractors providing 24-hour spill response).

Staff Contacts

Pollution Prevention Projects Coordinator
Ben Jarvis
DEQ State Office
Director's Office
1410 N. Hilton
Boise, ID 83706
(208) 373-0146

DEQ Resources

Related Pages

Idaho Chemical Roundup Program for Schools

Mercury-Free Zone Program for Schools