Mercury is a naturally occurring metal and is a chemical element. It cannot be artificially produced and it does not break down into other substances. Although mercury is a metal, it is a liquid at room temperature. Because of its chemical properties, it conducts electricity and is especially useful in a variety of electronic devices and in industrial applications. Mercury is also highly toxic to humans and wildlife. As a pollutant, it stays in the environment for a very long time. About two-thirds of the mercury found in the environment today is there because of human activity. Mercury is released as pollution when coal is burned in electric generating plants. It also comes form industrial processes and from improper disposal of household products that contain mercury.
Significant quantities of mercury have been found in many Indiana streams.
Indiana has issued consumption advisories for fish from many streams because of mercury contamination.
Most mercury that is released into the air from coal-fired power plants, incinerators and industrial boilers comes back to earth’s surface with rainfall. According to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), mercury has been detected at precipitation monitoring stations throughout North America.
IDEM and the U.S. Geological Survey operate a precipitation monitoring network in Indiana. IDEM publishes the currently available data summaries for the Indiana Monitoring Network.
For information about disposal in Allen County, Indiana, contact Allen County Solid Waste Management District at (260) 449-7265 or go to acwastewatcher.org
Because mercury is a liquid at room temperature, it forms beads that can accumulate in the tiniest places. These mercury droplets can give off odorless mercury vapor. Breathing this vapor can be very dangerous depending how much mercury is in the air and how long you breathe it. Small children and pregnant women are at the highest risk for health impacts from mercury, but everyone can be affected.
Information provided by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management:
Most small mercury spills – such as a spill from a thermometer used to take a person’s temperature -- can be cleaned up by following these instructions:
Useful items for cleaning up mercury:
o Rubber squeegee
o Plastic dust pan
o Plastic trash bag
o Zip-shut plastic bags
o Plastic container with a screw on or other leak-proof lid
o Eye dropper or other suction device such as a turkey baster
o Index cards or still paper
o Tape – electrical or duct tape works best
More information about cleaning up small spills can be found at these locations:
For larger spills or when in doubt about what to do call:
Fort Wayne Water Pollution Control Plant at (260) 427-1243
Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) Spill Line toll-free at (888) 233-7745. IDEM personnel can determine if IDEM and or US Environmental Protection Agency staff should be called in to perform a clean up operation.
For further information about human exposure to mercury, please call the Poison Center at (800) 222-1222.
200 East Berry Street ,Room 130
Fort Wayne IN 46802
7:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. M-F
7:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. M-F