Spills, Disposal and Cleanup
Because mercury is toxic and has significant impacts on human and environmental health, even small mercury spills should be considered hazardous and should be cleaned up with caution. Liquid mercury, commonly found in household thermometers, thermostats and barometers, volatilizes easily to form a poisonous, colourless and odourless vapor when spilled. If inhaled, this vapor is rapidly absorbed through the lungs of an exposed individual. Children are especially at risk of exposure because mercury vapors, which are heavier than air, often linger near the floor where children crawl and play.
A spill involving the amount of mercury found in household products does not usually lead to serious health problems. Contact your provincial / territorial or municipal environmental health authorities for further guidance on appropriate actions and requirements for your region. If you are concerned about mercury exposure, consult your physician or contact Health Canada.
Since mercury spills can have significant environmental consequences, reporting to Environment Canada may be required in addition to the appropriate provincial / territorial government department. More information about reporting requirements can be obtained from the links below.
- Environment Canada's Environmental Emergencies program
- Environmental Emergencies Regulations made under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA)
- Notification and Reporting of Environmental Emergencies found in the Implementation Guidelines for Part 8 of CEPA
For spills that occur during the transport of mercury, provincial / territorial or federal transportation of dangerous goods regulations may apply. Consult Transport Canada or your provincial / territorial authority for more details.
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