Michigan Releases Mercury Safety PSAs

Contact: Angela Minicuci (517) 241-2112


LANSING - The Michigan Departments of Community Health (MDCH) and Environmental Quality (DEQ), along with Michigan State University (MSU), have released five new public service announcements about the dangers of mercury. The videos are being shown in Michigan Secretary of State offices throughout the month of October and are also available online to raise awareness about the dangers of mercury, the silvery liquid found in old fever thermometers, thermostats, and other items.

With grant money from the U.S. EPA's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, these PSAs are aiming to educate Michiganders about the danger of mercury spills. While there are state laws that restrict the sale and certain uses of mercury in Michigan, spills do occur.

"When a mercury-containing item breaks, the mercury gives off vapors that can't be seen or smelled but are potentially harmful, especially to children and pregnant women," said Dr. Dean Sienko, Interim Chief Medical Executive at the MDCH. "Breathing too much mercury vapor can harm the central nervous system and the kidneys, and in some cases, the damage can be permanent."

Cleaning up a mercury spill quickly and correctly is critical. Contamination spread around from spilled mercury may have to be cleaned up professionally, which can be expensive. Spills can be prevented by removing mercury from homes and most workplaces.

MDCH and DEQ encourage recycling mercury rather than putting it in the trash. Household hazardous waste collections often take mercury-containing items for safe disposal. To find out where to get rid of mercury in your area, contact your local health department.

Mercury also gets into fish. The chemical form of mercury is different but, like the liquid, it is toxic. The Michigan "Eat Safe Fish" guidelines, available at www.michigan.gov/eatsafefish, have information about mercury and other chemicals in fish. The website also has information on how to choose fish that are safer to eat.

DEQ was awarded the EPA grant and partnered with MDCH to produce the videos. MSU's College of Communication Arts and Sciences producer Amol Pavangadkar worked with MDCH to produce the videos. "I remember playing with mercury when I was a kid," said Pavangadkar. "Now that I have children of my own, what I have learned while working with MDCH has really hit home."

Get rid of mercury before a spill occurs. It's not worth the risk. To view the PSAs, please visit www.youtube.com/michigandch. For more information about mercury, visit www.michigan.gov/mercury or call 800-MI-TOXIC (648-6942).

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