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Author: Subject: Mercury Exposure from Older Brother's Mysterious Dust
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[*] posted on 9-7-2013 at 12:21
Mercury Exposure from Older Brother's Mysterious Dust


I couldn't find a better place to post this. . .

My older brother is very interested in vintage electrical equipment. He has a collection composed of things such as audio equipment, fans, and the topic of this discussion, fluorescent lights.

Several months ago, he purchased several 3-bulb fluorescent lights from the 50s or 60s. The tubes that were in them were from the 90s and newer. He also purchased several vintage tubes from the 70s. None of the bulbs that he purchased have broken.

Yesterday, he decided to clean the glass covering the light fixture. He proceeded to take a wet rag and wipe off the mysterious gray "stuff" on the inside of the cover. (There wasn't much, it was just a very light coat of dust). I was questioning the safety of this, as I assumed that the only thing it could be was mercury. He threw the rag in the trash and we left the workshop/lab.

The next day, I realized that I should have ventilated the workshop. Following "better late than never," I opened the garage door and the side door and placed a box fan in one of the openings. I also took a wet rag and wiped the floor where he had cleaned the light cover. I also removed the trash bag and placed it outside.

I am in my teen years, so should I be concerned about mercury exposure from this?

Any help is appreciated.

[Edited on 9-7-2013 by Awesomeness]
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[*] posted on 9-7-2013 at 12:27


<strong><a href="viewthread.php?tid=23427">Medical Advice</a></strong>

With that out of the way; If you're concerned, I recommend getting a mercury test (typically blood or hair) from your physician.

Also, since you're in the United States:
<strong><a href="http://www.aapcc.org/" target="_blank">American Association of Poison Control Centers</a></strong> <img src="../scipics/_ext.png" />

I've called Poison Control before for possible Hg inhalation; it was informative and reassuring&mdash;also <em>free!</em>

[Edited on 7/9/13 by bfesser]




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[*] posted on 9-7-2013 at 13:03


IDK why this dust is assumed to be mercury...or what the panic is, the dust or the vapor. Mercury dust even mixed with other stuff is not particularly floaty. I'm not at all sure dust can be absorbed much at all in the lungs. The max ug/m3 concentration of mercury vapor in a space over mercury at STP is presumably a known thing...and how many m3 of this air did you breathe...

No doubt a hospital can find a mercury level in you like everyone else, hopefully it doesn't lead to the 20 nearest houses being evacuated.




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[*] posted on 9-7-2013 at 13:05


I wouldn't worry about it honestly, mercury evaporates over time and im guessing the grey dust was phosphors from old tubes. Then again Hg exposure is not a fun thing nor is it to be taken lightly, If you are seriously concerned, you should get a blood test from a doctor. Also remember that we are not trained medical professionals and as such, none of our advice should be taken as if we were.



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[*] posted on 23-7-2013 at 07:36


You said none of the tubes was broken? And the dust was inside a cover (which covers the fluoro tube)? I think it was just household dust. The lamp has been in use for years and unless it is hermetic some dust will get inside. But if you worry just go to mercury test... Sometimes I think I should go too. :D

[Edited on 23.7.2013 by tubelectric]
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[*] posted on 23-7-2013 at 07:50


There is absolutely no possible way for the mercury to leak out from a sealed evacuated tube. Even if the tube was broken, it can't evaporate and condense somewhere else. The rate of evaporation is so small that it's simply not possible.

Classic test for mercury requires a lock of your hair, and it takes some time until you grown enough of it. Metals are deposited in the follicle which grows slowly, so if someone has long hair and every few milimetres of it is analysed, one can determine the time of exposure.

That's household dust. Stop panicking and have a beer, or whatever you like to drink.

[Edited on 23-7-2013 by Endimion17]




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[*] posted on 23-7-2013 at 19:54


Pffbt, I have something better for you to be paranoid about :

I've seen vintage electrical chassis with peculiar yellow-greenish dusty corrosion on them. Dull silver metal, dusty surface, tinge of color ranging from olive drab to greenish-yellow.* Best guess, cadmium plating. Not so good for your kidneys, among other things.

But again, not much of a hazard if you aren't actively insufflating the stuff, and if you wash your hands after handling.

Plenty of lead to go around, too, but suffice it to say, I survived childhood despite having a soldering iron and not particularly good hygiene. As long as you aren't eating circuit board sandwiches every day, it's just not a problem.

*Thinking about it, maybe it wasn't cadmium -- I mean, that seems rather expensive for consumer electronics. I want to say cadmium has a nice yellow oxide, but maybe it can be greenish? Other possibilities include zinc, tin, lead, nickel and chromium. But of those, zinc has a white oxide; tin (or lead, or alloys) tend to dull and tarnish; nickel... might not really corrode?; and lastly, chrome rust is green, which isn't the right shade, and besides, it would've been a decorative bright plating, which would be obvious.

I have also seen many chassis which are copper plated, which obviously isn't what I'm talking about, but I mention only to round out the list. And yes, they tend to be encrusted with rust spots, since it's a rather poor galvanic choice.

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[*] posted on 23-7-2013 at 20:52


I can't say that I've seen this "peculiar yellow-greenish dusty corrosion" that you describe. Do you have any examples that you could photograph?

<strong><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plating#Cadmium_plating" target="_blank">Cadmium Plating</a></strong> <img src="../scipics/_wiki.png" />
<strong><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromate_conversion_coating" target="_blank">Chromate Conversion Coating</a></strong> <img src="../scipics/_wiki.png" />




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[*] posted on 24-7-2013 at 09:58


Sorry, it probably was just dust. There are no pictures available as it was being removed when I noticed it.

Thank you.




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[*] posted on 24-7-2013 at 16:24


Mercury is highly toxic, but it's not that classic contact poison. If you blow a pile of mercury chloride in air and take a good breath off the cloud, then you'd be in big trouble, but if you wipe mercury with especially wet rag and dont mess around with it and dump it into a bin, the exposure would be something of one-millionth of lifetime exposure. Respect is a good virtue when dealing with this substance, but still, it's not VX.
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[*] posted on 24-7-2013 at 21:52


Quote: Originally posted by bfesser  
I can't say that I've seen this "peculiar yellow-greenish dusty corrosion" that you describe. Do you have any examples that you could photograph?


I don't have much junk of that persuasion sitting around, but I'll take a look and see if I can find any spots.

Tim




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