For the third time in less than a month, a Hazmat Crew was dispatched to Vancouver’s Stanley Park to clean-up a mercury spill. In each of the incidents, the cause of the spill is either a broken thermometer or broken thermostat.
In each incident, it took hazmat teams a couple of hours completely clean up the tiny droplets of metal.
Vancouver police are working with Fire officials to determine if the three incidents are related, who is responsible, and what is the possible motive.
Exposure to Mercury and Health Implications
Mercury is a naturally occurring toxic heavy metal that is widely dispersed in nature. Most human exposure results from fish consumption or dental amalgam. Exposure to high levels of mercury, including acute exposure (exposure occurring over a short period of time, often less than a day) can have serious health impacts.
Typical acute exposure to mercury occurs due to an industrial accident. Factors that determine whether health effects occur and their severity include: the type of mercury concerned; the dose; the age or developmental stage of the person exposed; the duration of exposure; and the route of exposure (inhalation, ingestion or dermal contact).
Elemental and methylmercury are toxic to the central and peripheral nervous systems. The inhalation of mercury vapour can produce harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, lungs and kidneys, and may be fatal.
There are several methods for cleaning up mercury spills. One method involves sprinkling sulfur powder over the contaminated area and rubbing it gently all over the surface and into the cracks with a cloth. The sulfur powder binds with mercury and can be collected with a cloth.
Environment Canada has a guidance document on how to clean up small mercury spills. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has a 133-page guidance document that describes eight different treatment technologies for mercury in soil, waste, and water.