While I was washing dishes, LJ found the basket and began asking what this and that were. I completely forgot about having a mercury thermometer in there (it seems to be more accurate than most of the digital ones I've tried). He tried to pull the cap off and broke off the end of the thermometer, shattering the glass and scattering tiny droplets of mercury all over the table, chair, floor, and himself, I'm sure. I've never had to deal with it before but I do know that mercury is hazardous. So I immediately grabbed up the baby, who was under the table, and sent everyone out of the kitchen. I stripped LJ's clothes and washed his hands. Papa Bear searched for instructions on cleaning up mercury while I searched for the glass and mercury droplets. When mercury "breaks", the droplets range in size and can be super tiny and difficult to find. Here is another site with detailed instructions on cleaning up mercury.
Wisconsin Dept.of Health
"Never use a broom or a vacuum on a mercury spill because it will only scatter the mercury droplets, making them harder to find and pick up." -Wisconsin Dept. of Health
Here are a list of things you should have on hand:
- Paper plate (for collecting mercury)
- Latex or rubber gloves (good to have on hand for all sorts of reasons, just hide them from the kids)
- Plastic zip baggies (for disposing of contaminated items)
- Trash bags
- Tape (packing, duct, anything wide and sticky to pick up droplets, especially on carpet)
- Medicine syringe or eye dropper (to pick up tiny droplets)
- Index or playing cards (use to scoot droplets onto paper plate)
- Paper towels
Wearing latex gloves, pick up glass pieces and scoot mercury beads onto paper plate using card or paper towels. After you've gotten all that you can find, wipe down the surfaces with a damp washcloth (that you won't miss) or paper towels. When you're finished collecting all the mercury, broken glass, and contaminated items, seal them all up in zip baggies, including any items you used to collect it and your gloves (pull from the wrist, turning inside out). I would double-bag it just in case the broken glass pokes through the bag. If you have more than one bag of contaminated items, collect them all in one trash bag. WASH YOUR HANDS! Make sure you label the bag "Mercury-Contaminated". Then contact your local waste management department and see if they have any special procedures for disposal.
Disclaimer: I am NOT an expert in hazardous materials or an OSHA or EPA employee, I just found this information on the internet and am sharing it with you. Please research on your own and consult a professional if you need help.