Mercury exposure is a health risk, and precaution must be taken in the event of a spill. Please visit the fluorescent bulb or thermometer spills pages for specific steps. No matter the source of the spill, it is imperative to proceed with caution to minimize risk of exposure.
Never use a vacuum cleaner to clean up mercury. The vacuum will put mercury into the air and increase exposure. Never use a broom to clean up mercury. It will break the mercury into smaller droplets and spread them. Never pour mercury down a drain. It may lodge in the plumbing and cause future problems during plumbing repairs. If discharged, it can cause pollution of the septic tank or sewage treatment plant.
Never wash clothing or other items that have come in direct contact with mercury in a washing machine, because mercury may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage. Clothing that has come into direct contact with mercury should be discarded. "Direct contact" means that mercury was (or has been) spilled directly on the clothing, for example, if you break a mercury thermometer and some of elemental mercury beads came in contact with your clothing. Never walk around if your shoes might be contaminated with mercury. Contaminated clothing can also spread mercury around.
Fluorescent bulbs are made of glass and can break if dropped or roughly handled. To avoid breaking a bulb, follow these general practices:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the source for the information on this page.