UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry                                                                             Chemical Safety Office/ EH&S

Safety Notes

Newsletter #1                                                        September 1996

Mercury Cleanup and Disposal

Mercury Cleanup and Disposal

Small Spills

In case of a small Mercury spill in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, as in the case of a broken thermometer or a small spill from a manometer, place the broken device and mercury debris in a zip lock bag and bring to the Chemical Safety Office at Molecular Sciences, Room 2104, anytime. Cleanup supplies for a small mercury spill are available from the Spill Response Cart, located in Room 3114, Molecular Sciences. The spill response cart has a number of supplies on it, including a handy "Mercury Spill Kit", which contains some absorbent material, special sponges to pick up mercury droplets, and a hand held vacuum pump to clean up drops of mercury. The Freshman Support Lab in Young Hall 1072 has a kit , also.

Large Spills

A large spill of mercury should be reported to Environment Health and Safety at 56945 or 55689. Specially trained UCLA Haz Mat technicians will come out and clean up the spill. They have the equipment available to do a thorough job of cleaning and disposal of hazardous waste. To expedite the cleanup, close the door to the affected area, alert people in the area, and evacuate.

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Remember that mercury is a very toxic chemical. Prolonged exposure to mercury vapor will cause damage to the human nervous system.

Clean up all mercury spills completely.

Special Equipment

Ordinary vacuum cleaners MUST NOT be used to clean up mercury spills. A specialized vacuum has been purchased to clean up mercury spills. It is newly purchased and replaces the old mercury vacuum. The new vacuum is smaller, more portable, and more powerful. It is manufactured by Nilfisk, Inc. and is stored in the Emergency Cage on the first floor of Young Hall, across from Young 1060. The vacuum should be used for liquid mercury spills, but not for the amalgam of mercury and the absorbent material. That should be swept up and placed in a zip lock bag and then delivered to the Chemical Safety Office.

Special Equip. II

Another recent addition to our Mercury cleanup supplies is the Jerome Mercury Vapor Analyzer. The Mercury Vapor Analyzer provides an accurate, rapid reading of the level of mercury in the air. It has a range of .000 to .999 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3) Hg. It operates on the principle that mercury will amalgamate with a thin gold film and the increase in electrical resistance is proportional to the mass of mercury in the sample. It is accurate, reliable, portable and simple to operate. It is kept in the Chemical Safety Office, Molecular Sciences, room 2104. Call to borrow or set up a survey.


Detailed Procedures for Cleaning up a Small Mercury Spill

1. Avoid spreading mercury spill.

2. Post area with "Do Not Enter" sign.

3. Wear proper Personal Protective Equipment, i.e. gloves, boots, respirator.

4. Consolidate mercury into one or more puddles.

5. Vacuum up the consolidated puddles using the Nilfisk Mercury Vacuum.

6. When all visible mercury is picked up, run vacuum nozzle over each crack in the floor, along base boards, bench tops, shelves and drawers.

7. Spread Mercury-X or other mercury amalgam over the contaminated area. If possible leave on the contaminated area for several hours. Pick up with whisk broom and dustpan and place in a zip lock bag.

8. Before leaving the area, remove gloves and boots. Place them in a plastic bag along with other contaminated items.

9. Contact the Chemical Safety Officer at 63661 for disposal of mercury contaminated materials. He will monitor the area with the Mercury Vapor Detector. If high readings are detected, repeat the clean up.

10. Return the Mercury Vacuum to the Emergency Cage. Do not attempt to empty the mercury from it. This will be done by the Chemical Safety Officer.

11. Fill out a departmental accident report form and return it to the Chemical Safety Officer.


Bill Peck    Chemical Safety Officer         2104 Molecular Sciences         (20)6-3661