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EPA Helps Remove Mercury from Border Schools

Release Date: 5/1/2002
Contact Information: For more information contact the Office of External Affairs at (214) 665-2200.

     The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is helping remove 45 pounds of liquid mercury and 511 pounds of mercury-containing devices from schools along the Texas-Mexico border.

     "Keeping our environment safe for children is one of EPA's highest priorities.  Removing mercury from schools is an easy and smart thing to do - with enormous benefits.  We hope more schools will follow our lead," said EPA Regional Administrator Gregg Cooke.

     Children are often fascinated by the peculiar properties of liquid mercury and handle it inappropriately.  For example, glass vials filled with mercury have been a popular jewelry item for children in many border communities.  Some cases have resulted in exposure and costly decontamination in schools.

     This continuing initiative, called the "Border Schools Mercury Pilot Project," promotes a safe environment for children by exchanging mercury-containing devices in schools for mercury-free replacements.  It also educates school administrators and others on the hazards of mercury and EPA's initiative to reduce potential mercury exposure to students.

     Necklace vials, thermometers, barometers, containers of liquid mercury, thermostats, spill kits, fluorescent lamps and other items were collected at border schools by EPA and either recycled or responsibly disposed.  

     Mercury is a naturally occurring metal, which may take several forms.  At room temperature, mercury is a shiny, silver-white, odorless liquid.  If heated, it is a colorless, odorless gas.  

     Exposure to mercury occurs from breathing contaminated air, ingesting contaminated water and food, and having dental and medical treatments. Mercury, at high levels, may damage the brain, kidneys, and developing fetus. Children are more sensitive to the adverse effects of mercury exposure than adults.

The pilot involved 27 of 38 invited school districts, including:

Brownsville ISD
Donna ISD
Edcouch-Elsa ISD
Edinburg ISD
Harlingen CISD
Hidalgo ISD
Jim Hogg ISD(Hebronville)
La Joya ISD
Laredo ISD
Lasara ISD
Los Fresnos ISD
Lyford CISD
McAllen ISD
Mission CISD
Monte Alto ISD
Pharr-San Juan-Alamo (PSJA) ISD  
Port Isabel ISD
Rio Grande City COSD
Roma ISD
San Benito ISD
Santa Maria ISD
Sharyland ISD (Mission)
South Texas ISD
United ISD (Laredo)
Valley View ISD
Webb CISD (Oilton)
Weslaco ISD

     More information on the effects of mercury is available on the Internet at