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Don’t let what happened to Ballou happen to you - Schools invited to internet training on mercury

Release Date: 11/5/2003
Contact Information: Bonnie Smith, 215-814-5543

Bonnie Smith, 215-814-5543

PHILADELPHIA – Recently students at Ballou High School in Washington, D.C., gained access to the school’s chemistry lab and spread mercury around the school. When liquid mercury is spilled, it forms droplets that can accumulate in the tiniest of spaces and then emits vapors into the air. Health problems caused by mercury depend on how much entered your body, how it entered your body, how long you have been exposed, and how your body responds to the mercury. But all mercury spills should be treated seriously, as this one was.

The school was closed for weeks. Families were moved from their homes. Students, teachers, and faculty’s health were potentially at risk. EPA and local agencies did extensive testing for elevated levels of mercury vapors – at the school, in homes and apartments, and even city buses. The cost of the cleanup has been estimated at more than a million dollars.

“Don’t let what happened in Ballou happen to you. Facility managers, science coordinators and school administrator should make plans to keep their school as environmentally safe as possible – and this includes the chemistry labs. For the most up-to-date information EPA is co-hosting a webcast on mercury in schools and sustainable science,” said Donald S. Welsh, mid-Atlantic regional administrator.

The web-based video cast workshop entitled: Enhancing Pollution Prevention in School and Laboratory Facilities: Lessons Learned from Mercury Reduction Programs. It will be webcast from 1 to 4 p.m. ESD, Monday, Nov. 17.

The workshop will cover the risks associated with mercury in schools and ways to eliminate it. Expert sessions will emphasize student safety and the use of environmentally sound practices for school labs – called green chemistry. Maryland Delegate James W. Hubbard and the state environmental and education agencies in the state will discuss the progress they have made on this issue.

Individuals can register for the workshop, request continuing education units and access the training from their personal computers by logging onto the following website:

Individuals can attend the actual training workshop on Nov. 17 at the main campus of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md. satellite viewing sites are now being set up in Philadelphia and the District of Columbia. We encourage you to set up your own viewing site for your school district or log on to the webcast from your computer. Please note, that advance reservation or registration will be necessary.