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ATSDR Stories from the Field

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) works to protect Americans from the dangerous health effects of toxic substances in the environment. ATSDR responds to requests from federal, state, and local governments to help identify environmental hazards, recommend actions to reduce exposure, and educate the public about how to prevent harmful exposures that can lead to harmful health effects in their communities.

ATSDR impacts millions of lives nationwide, in 2017

  • We conducted health activities and investigations in nearly 40 states and territories and responded to over 500 requests for assistance across the United States.
  • Nearly 1.2 million people were potentially impacted by exposures at sites where ATSDR worked.
  • ATSDR recommendations were adopted by health agencies in numerous communities nationwide, which led to the elimination of harmful environmental hazards and protected nearly 100,000 people.

With staff in Atlanta as well as 10 regional offices and 25 state health departments across the country, ATSDR is available 24/7 to respond to local concerns and protect health during environmental emergencies.

Collage of ATSDR at work

School mercury spills are toxic, costly, disruptive, and destructive. ATSDR launches two new mercury spill training videos for teachers and school staff.

Danger in Your School: ATSDR Launches Two New Mercury Spill Training Videos for Teachers and School Staff

School mercury spills are toxic, costly, disruptive, and destructive. Two new training videos from ATSDR aim to increase awareness among teachers, school administrators, and custodial staff of the dangers of mercury while encouraging them to make their schools mercury free.

The video Mercury: Danger in Your School, gives information on elemental mercury hazards, preparedness, source identification, alternative products, and communication.

The video Mercury Spill Cleanup ensures school staff, facilities managers, and custodians know how to best manage mercury spills. The video teaches staff how to identify which spills can be cleaned up by school staff and which spills need professional cleanup. The video goes through the steps for a small spill cleanup.

While you’re visiting the Don’t Mess with Mercury webpages, check out these other award-winning resources for middle school students, teachers, and administrators:

  • Educational video game and 30-second public service announcement for tweens
  • 3 teacher lesson plans for grades 6-8 based on Next Generation Science Standard and Common Core Language Arts Standards
  • Talking points and “Dear parent” letters for school administrators to use after a spill

Both videos, the website, and most tools are available in English and Spanish.

Elemental mercury is found in some thermometers, thermostats, electrical switches, and school science labs.  Its unique properties make it appealing to handle. But mercury is poisonous! Breathing mercury vapors can affect the nervous system, damage the kidneys, and harm other parts of the body.

Mercury spills often happen when curious youth find mercury, play with it, and spread it through their schools and into homes. Cleanup costs for large school mercury spills range from $100,000 to over $1 million and have resulted in days to months of school closures.

For more information and resources, visit Don’t Mess with Mercury website or contact Sue Casteel, ATSDR Health Educator.

  • Page last reviewed: December 17, 2018
  • Page last updated: December 17, 2018
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