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How dangerous is mercury contamination?

Posted at 5:45 PM, Sep 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-12 22:22:54-04
The mercury spill at Johnson Junior High School forced the cancellation of classes for three days and had many parents worried. 
But how dangerous is it? According to a doctor at University Medical Center, the answer is it depends.
From what students told 13 Action News, the mercury found at Johnson Junior High was in a liquid form. 
Dr. J.D. McCort says liquid mercury, like what's found in a thermometer is elemental mercury, and it is much less dangerous than other forms. 
"Elemental is in the thermometer, it's not very toxic, even if you ingest it," said Dr. McCort. "The others are inorganic, they're salts and what can happen there is the vapors can get into you system, you can ingest it."
The biggest risk with inorganic mercury and a sign you may have any kind of mercury poisoning are neurological problems. 
If you have a reason to think you may have mercury poisoning, Dr. McCort says you should get checked out. 
If you are exposed symptoms can range from random tingling to headaches. But he said mercury poisoning here is very rare.
"Offhand, I don't know of anyone who's seen a mercury toxicity here," Dr. McCort said. "What we do see is the child brought in after they bit the thermometer, and again, that's the elemental mercury that's really not very toxic."
Dr. McCort said it is more common to see mercury poisoning in areas where there is industrial and metal work.