Clean-up and Safety

Mercury is toxic to the human nervous system. The developing brains of fetuses and infants are especially sensitive to mercury’s toxic effects. Mercury can be particularly hazardous because it can be easily absorbed through the lungs and into the bloodstream. Exposure to mercury vapors can occur when mercury products (such as thermometers and fluorescent lamps) are broken. Even very small amounts of mercury (several drops) may raise air concentrations to levels that may be harmful to human health.

Elemental mercury is a shiny liquid, silver-white in color and has many useful properties. It is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature. Mercury combines easily with other metals, is a good conductor of electricity and expands and contracts evenly with temperature changes. As a result, mercury has been used in many household, medical and industrial products like; thermometers and barometers, thermostats and old latex paints. Elemental mercury when spilled at room temperature can break up into small droplets and evaporate to form mercury vapor. The higher the room temperature the more mercury vapors will be released. Mercury vapors are also heavier than air and may linger in higher concentrations at the site of the spill.


Always call Environmental Health & Safety (414) 288-8411 for assistance whenever you have a mercury spill, after evaluation EH&S will contact a professional emergency response contractor to come in and properly cleanup the spill.

Steps in mercury spill clean-up


Mission Statement

The Risk Unit is responsible for evaluating loss exposures, assessing liability, handling claims, promoting internal controls and developing effective safety and health programs. The corporate and student insurance plans are managed by this unit.