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[ Recorded presentation ] Recorded presentation

Tracking the Dispersion and Contamination from a Mercury Spill in a High School -Washington, D.C. , October 2003

A. Chevelle Glymph, MPH1, Peter E. Thomas, PhD, MPH2, Kerda Dehaan, MS2, LaVerne H. Jones, MPH2, Gebreyesus Kidane, PhD, MPH2, Garret R. Lum, MPH2, Samuel C Washington, MPH2, Christine M. Yuan, MPH2, Aaron Adade, PhD2, and John O. Davies-Cole, PhD, MPH2. (1) Bureau of Epidemiology & Health Risk Assessment, District of Columbia Department of Health, 825 North Capitol St NE, #3142, Washington, DC 20002, 202-442-9146, aglymph@dchealth.com, (2) Bureau of Epidemiology and Health Risk Assessment, District of Columbia Department of Health, 825 North Capitol St, NE, Third Floor, Washington, DC 20002

Background: On October 4, 2003, the District of Columbia Department of Health Bureau of Epidemiology and Health Risk Assessment (BEHRA) participated in an investigation of a mercury (Hg) spill at a high school where a student gained access to the chemistry laboratory and distributed the chemical to students. BEHRAs role was to help determine the extent and sources of exposure and to organize data on contact, dispersion, contamination level, and clinical symptoms of acute contamination. Methods: Using a survey and in-depth interviews, information was collected regarding demographics, location and time of exposure, possible contacts, and places of potential dispersion. The Environmental Protection Agency gathered information on clothing and domicile contamination level. Mercury blood level was determined by local hospitals. Cases were defined as clothes scanned hot (levels ³ 100 g Hg/m3) on persons potentially exposed. Chi-square statistics were used to estimate the association of symptoms with reported mercury contact. Results: Of 1134 students and contacts tested, 120 (10%) had Hg levels over 100 g Hg/m3. Of these, 32% reported ever seeing, touching or smelling/inhaling the mercury; 15% reported symptoms consistent with contamination.. Limitations detecting exposure may have increased underreporting. Of 40 patients examined clinically, those with elevated Hg blood levels (20%) were relatives or cohabitants of students admitting prolonged contact with mercury. Conclusion: We documented widespread contamination and potentially toxic levels of exposure among students with extended mercury exposure and their close contacts. This incident underscores the public health need for improving security and control of hazardous chemicals at schools.

Learning Objectives:

  • At the conclusion of the session, the participant (learner) in this session will be able to

    Keywords: Environmental Health Hazards, School Health

    Presenting author's disclosure statement:
    I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

    [ Recorded presentation ] Recorded presentation

    Public Health in the Environment 2

    The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA