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Flip
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[*] posted on 10-10-2006 at 21:11
Advice on Mercury Spill


Alright, so whilst playing with some mercury today, I spilled about 40 grams upon a pile of clothing. The floor underneath was hardwood, and I managed to recover 26 grams. The problem is that I don't know what happened to the other 14 grams.

My biggest concern is the clothing. What would you do? I'm thinking that the spin cycle might not be enough...

Is there anything I can safely add to the wash that might adsorb or salt with the mercury and not ruin my clothing?

Any other ideas on the best way to salvage the clothes?

If it was your clothing, would you wear it again?

What is my worst case scenario for wearing these clothes?

I can see a few articles have nano beads of Hg in the fabric, while others *appear* to be unnaffected. I salvaged what I could and threw the obviously tainted clothing into a basket. Now i'm just wondering if these articles are fracked up beyond all recognition, and whether i'll need to save for a new wardrobe.

Thanks guys,

Flip
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[*] posted on 10-10-2006 at 21:24


Shit, dude. You shouldn't have moved the stuff. Anywhere the mercury might have gotten, put sulfur powder all over the place. Put the clothes in several layers of plastic bags. And DON'T wash the clothes, the mercury will likely get in your washer, and spend years evaporating for you to breathe whenever you do the laundry.

Moral of the story: play with mercury outside, or over a bowl. Or both. And have lots of sulfur on hand.




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[*] posted on 10-10-2006 at 21:43


Some of the mercury is likely down in the holes and grooves of the floor.

How bad the effect is depends on what references you look at. The organic mercury compounds are bad, they are formed mostly in water and particularly in the bottom mud. The inorganic salts are toxic if ingested or absorbed. But people have been exposed to massive amounts of metallic mercury without showing ill effects, even years later. Still seems kind of iffy to me.

Don't wash them - the mercury is likely to end up in your washer, in the drains, in the sewer system, or some combination of those. In the washer isn't good, in the drains means organic mercury compounds drifting around your drain plumbing. In the sewers is just being unkind to everyone else as well as yourself.


Ignoring what was said in the above paragraph, dissolving the mercury isn't too likely without pretty reactive stuff. There are some solutions of sulfur in amines that will react to form HgS, which is pretty insoluble and fairly inert, but those would seem to have a chance of damaging the clothes and are not OTC either.


More likely is that you will need to declare the clothes as hazmat and properly dispose of them, if there is some grams of mercury spread through them. Several layers heavy plastic bags, a big label. You could through sulfur in there, just to tie up some of the mercury.


Much less useful - Put the clothing in a large heavy duty plastic sack or plastic storage container than seals tightly. Toss in zinc strips or mossy zinc, say 5 to 10 times as much as the Hg. Seal the contain up and leave it alone. The mercury amalgamates with the zinc, which eventually can be removed. The time it takes to do this depends on the diffusion and evaporation rates of the mercury. Ideally you would use granulated zinc and tumble it with the clothing to speed things up. This will take a long time, so you will need to wear less clothing or buy new stuff in the mean time, or take up nudism. This is really only useful for something that can't be replaced, like your greatgrandmother's wedding dress.

You could nitrate the clothing, with the mercury going into the nitrating acids; this would give you a good stockpile of nitrocelluose or nitro-whatever. Rocket pants!


Plastic pans and tubs are much cheaper than a new wardrobe, not to mention getting mercury out of the floor. Suggest you consider that for the next time you play with mercury.

A way to clean the floor is to spread zinc dust on it vacuum the dust up with a vac that won't ignite the zinc dust/air mixture. Sweeping doesn't get the zinc dust out of the pores and cracks, but it's better than nothing; if that case after sweeping use a damp cloth (which will be contaminated after use) Repeat several times, then do once with flowers of sulfur and sort of grind that into the floor.

Alternatively just ignore it, and plan to run for president in a few years after the neurotoxicity hits.
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[*] posted on 10-10-2006 at 21:56


Avoid using zinc dust and sufur both on the same area. The mixture is rocket fuel. :o
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[*] posted on 10-10-2006 at 22:05


Quote:
Originally posted by Eclectic
Avoid using zinc dust and sufur both on the same area. The mixture is rocket fuel. :o


Only if you play with matches as well as mercury. Not too many people go around holding lit matches to wood floors.

And the idea is to get all the zinc up, along with the mercury it absorbs. The sulfur is much slower in reacting, as is used as a long term fix.
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[*] posted on 10-10-2006 at 23:06


Something OTC would be handy, but obviously I have to live here so i'll do what I need to do. Right now i'm trying to avoid thinking of my room as a chemical disaster zone. Anyone know if Chemizorb (zinc powder) is availiable on the shelves anywhere? If not, I might opt for the flowers of sulfur. I mean, 14 grams isn't a lot when you think about it... just a little over a mL. The problem is that judging by the size of the particles i see in the clothing, I might not have gotten it all w/ conventional cleaning, and it could have easily spread over a wide area (dropped it from about 4 ft. and also spread some when picking up the clothes.)

Damn I lost some really nice sweaters.
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[*] posted on 11-10-2006 at 05:12


Amalgamation with scrap steel turnings would be the simplest and cheapest way to remove the mercury from the clothing and recover the mercury later :D



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[*] posted on 11-10-2006 at 06:01


A mixture of zinc dust and sulfur can detonate from friction or percussion.

Mercury does not amalgamate with iron or steel.

Zinc dust is available on Ebay in 1-5lb quantities.

Try to set up some type of exhaust fan in your window. 50-100 CFM should keep mercury vapors from reaching hazardous levels.
6-18 months should be sufficient. If you don't like them already, learn to love onions and garlic. The sulfur compounds in them are fairly effective heavy metal chelators.

You could dust the clothing with zinc and store in a spacebag until spring, shake and vacuum everything out (outside), and store in a hot ventilated attic over the summer, then wash. There shouldn't be much mercury left after that. If you use sulfur instead of zinc, you might get vermillion stains.

[Edited on 11-10-2006 by Eclectic]
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[*] posted on 11-10-2006 at 06:59


"Amalgamation with scrap steel turnings would be the simplest and cheapest way to remove the mercury from the clothing and recover the mercury later "

Mercury does not form an amalgam with Steel. Infact bulk mercury is stored in 3 lit steel
containers. (34.5 kg mercury per flask is the industrial bulk mercury unit.)

gsd

[Edited on 11-10-2006 by gsd]
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[*] posted on 11-10-2006 at 07:13


Bag the clothes and throw them away. Vacuum the floor with nozzle and good suction, then throw bag away. The earth is loaded with Hg ores and I do not see anyone declaring the planet a hazmat zone. Just get it out of house and quit worrying about it.

Or spend several hundred grand for government geeks in space suits to hazmat the area. Your choice. People are getting too paranoid. Or is it too PC.

Rocket fuel to clean up Hg. You guys are scaring me.
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[*] posted on 11-10-2006 at 07:29


I have heard that vacuuming is not a good way to remove Hg because it breaks up the mercury into smaller droplets which evaporate faster and that gives you higher levels of Hg in your air.
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[*] posted on 11-10-2006 at 09:43


Toxic levels of mercury vapor will only be a potential problem in a very airtight modern house without active ventilation. Still, I'd sweep zinc dust around to collect the spatter. BTW, the guys in hazmat suits aren't geeks. They are minimally trained, poorly educated garbage men whose only knowlege of chemistry is "hazardous waste". The EPA guy in charge is likely a political hack appointee with little or no science training.




Mercury Info

[Edited on 11-10-2006 by Eclectic]
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[*] posted on 11-10-2006 at 10:49


Wow, I never knew K3wlz could even Get that old :P



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[*] posted on 11-10-2006 at 12:11


Flip, you have a BIG problem.

The loss of the clothes is the smallest problem you have. Get rid of those clothes, don't wash them and throw them away in a well-sealed plastic bag.

I would break out the wooden floor from the room where you spilled the mercury and also get rid of that wood. Then clean the floor very well (using zinc and/or sulphur) and get rid of all cleaning stuff as well.

This will be a hundreds of dollar loss, or maybe thousands :o. Don't think too lightly about this. In the long run the mercury will do big damage to your health (and to your home-mates, family or whoever live with you).

For this reason I absolutely do no experiments with metallic mercury, I'm really too much afraid for spilling the metal and having a zillion tiny droplets of metal all over the place.

You definitely should not vacuum clean the room. That will spray very fine droplets through the air and will contaminate other parts of the house as well.




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[*] posted on 11-10-2006 at 12:17


I dont' know ... But in my country people used to play with mercury a lot of maybe ten years ago ... They even didn't know that it's toxic... There was alot of mercury around .... you can get a lot of thing here... childrens used to play with it ... dropping it everywhere and not paying attention to it's toxicity ... It's really scary to me right know ... But when you don't know, you don't think about it and it's toxicity
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[*] posted on 11-10-2006 at 12:54


A properly designed vacuum and filter is exactly how the hazmat people get it out of floors and ground.
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[*] posted on 11-10-2006 at 13:01


Get real. Heavy metals are a natural part of the environment and always have been. There is no reason to panic over a few ml of mercury. I'd be concerned if there were infants, pregnant women, or preteens in the house, but not FREAKED OUT!!! The half life of elemental mercury in the human body is about 3 weeks. Less if you like horseradish, mustard, radishes, and alliums. It's NOT methyl mercury!

The hazmat folks also raise the heating system to 85-90 (F) degress for a few weeks with the ventilation system turned on (bathroom exhaust fan) to evaporate the remainder.

[Edited on 11-10-2006 by Eclectic]
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[*] posted on 11-10-2006 at 13:04


Quote:
Mercury does not amalgamate with iron or steel.


Quote:
Mercury does not form an amalgam with Steel.


These statements are contrary to Romanian Patent 84,123 titled:
Recovery of mercury from gases and aqueous liquids
Gases and aqueous solutions are reduced-oxidized by contacting with scap alloy (99526-28-0) containing Fe 93.2-94.2, C 3.2-3.6, Si 1.8-2.2, Mn 0.45-0.65, P 0.25, S 0.05, and Cr 0.05 %. Then the scrap is heated to 270-290 ° C and Hg is recovered by flushing with air and water. The condensed Hg is purified by distillation or rinsing with pressurized water. Thus an aqueous solution containing 50 mg HgCl2/L was contacted with the scrap Fe alloy to give a spent solution containing .001 mg Hg/L

This patent was filed by scientists from Combinatul Chimic, Riminicu-Vilcea on May 10 1983 and granted on Jun 30 1984 :P In days of yore mercury was commonly available, but now the chemophobics have promoted hysteria by using the mass media :mad: Copper also amalgates Hg according to several patents, a visit to a good science library will verify this matter :cool:

[Edited on 11-10-2006 by leu]




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[*] posted on 11-10-2006 at 13:06


That's not amalgamation. It's using iron as a reducing agent.
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[*] posted on 11-10-2006 at 13:15


Here's your sign.
Would it help you get over the loss of your clothes if I were to break it to you that mercury is stored in the brain and has a 10 year half life? Slightly better than lead which has a 20 year HL and is stored in the bones.
Do a websearch for Minimata japan and mercury poisoning then tell me how nice those clothes are.
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[*] posted on 11-10-2006 at 13:25


Quote:
That's not amalgamation. It's using iron as a reducing agent.


Please read the attached patent; GB814862 there are many other patents that state the same thing :D What is your source of this misinformation :P

Attachment: GB814862A.pdf (433kB)
This file has been downloaded 540 times





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[*] posted on 11-10-2006 at 13:29


Elemental mercury is VERY different from METHYL mercury, just as inorganic lead is VERY different from tetraethyl lead. I'd swallow a ml of elemental mercury on a dare (for enough money), but I don't want to be in the same county with methyl mercury.
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[*] posted on 11-10-2006 at 13:51


leu, you might have to concede this one unless you can find a reference that states that Fe/Hg can be made at STP without electricity.

5, your post on methylmercury has nothing to do with this topic, as inhaled Hg is not converted to it.

Vacuuming Hg with a vacuum cleaner is unwise and highly unrecommended. If it can pick it up, a bulb vacuum might be better than dealing with picking up Zn dust for the most part. Zn dust is in alkaline batteries. Hg that has seeped under the floor is not exactly volatizing fast. It may remain when someone unsuspecting decides to replace the floor, finds Hg, freaks out, calls the authorities and lawyers, who start asking you questions. I'm not as freaked out as woelen, but then I was poisoned by Hg myself, maybe I'm drain-bamaged. I'd be more worried about liability than anything else.

[Edited on 11-10-2006 by S.C. Wack]
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[*] posted on 11-10-2006 at 13:52


Quote:
Originally posted by Eclectic
Elemental mercury is VERY different from METHYL mercury, just as inorganic lead is VERY different from tetraethyl lead. I'd swallow a ml of elemental mercury on a dare (for enough money), but I don't want to be in the same county with methyl mercury.


There is a big difference between swallowing mercury and having finely dispersed mercury in your house. IIRC, some small fraction of a percent of mercury is absorbed into the body through touching/handling, and this usually impregnates itself in the skin and sloughs off soon enough. Either 1% or 4% of the Hg is absorbed through the digestive tract from swallowing the elemental metal, and as you have been saying, the absorbed metal is (relatively, for a heavy metal) quickly cleansed by the natural chelating agents in the digestive tract you were talking about. However, when mercury just hangs out in the open, it evaporates- over 95% of the mercury inhaled is absorbed, and instead of hanging out in the digestive system where it would be cleansed, it goes straight into the bloodstream and the majority of it deposits in the brain.

Point is, I would much rather drink a small beaker of mercury than have even a mL around my clothes, washing machine, or absorbed in my wood floor.

I wouldn't say rip out your floor or anything. But again, isolate those clothes in a bag, preferably with sulfur or zinc (EITHER, not BOTH) until a proper course of action can be determined. I like the idea of having a fan in the room, and circulation in the house.




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[*] posted on 11-10-2006 at 14:28


The vapor pressure of elemental mercury is not very high at room temperature, only about .001 torr, so with normal ventilation, air concentration is fairly low. (Actual calculations are left as an excersise for the students). Tightly closed rooms can be problematic. Felt used to be made using mercury compounds, hence, "mad as a hatter". AFAIK, the effects were not universal, and this was with daily exposure to high vapor concentrations in sweatshop conditions.

Mad as a Hatter

Sulfur compounds don't just chelate heavy metals in the gut, they also bind them in blood and tissues.
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