Mercury-Containing Antiques Pose Exposure Hazard

Clocks, barometers, mirrors, lamps and other antiques should be carefully handled to avoid spill

FRIDAY, June 15 (HealthDay News) -- Antiques containing mercury such as clocks, lamps, mirrors and barometers should be carefully sealed and handled to avoid spills that can cause a health hazard, according to a report in the June 15 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

From 2000-2006, there were six antique-related mercury spills reported to the Hazardous Substances Emergency Events Surveillance system, which covers 14 states. All spills occurred in New York state and included antique clocks, mirrors, barometers and lamps.

Spill volumes ranged from 30 mL to 500 mL of mercury and required remediation to prevent future mercury exposure, although there were no symptoms or serious health consequences. In two of the cases there was an attempt to vacuum the spill, which the CDC notes will increase the levels of mercury in the air and can be toxic. The spills were reported to the fire department or health department.

"Most mercury-containing antiques do not pose a risk for exposure if they are sealed and handled properly," CDC officials write. "If a spill of elemental mercury does occur, prompt and proper care must be taken to contain and prevent further spread of the substance to minimize exposure and prevent adverse health effects."

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