Missouri DNR collects mercury in Region 8

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) - "If you have some mercury in your home, and it's in a container that could get spilled, why would you want to take that chance?"

That's a question Art Goodin and Josh Wilkerson with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources are trying to answer.

They say many people in the Heartland have large storage containers full of mercury, and they say there's not a good reason to keep it in your house.

They say every household item that may have mercury, from thermometers to thermostats to barometers, can be replaced by units that don't use the harmful substance.

"If you're exposed to enough of this element, it can cause you some serious problems," Goodin said. "The vapors that come off liquid mercury are colorless, they're odorless. The only way you could detect it is if you have an instrument that can detect it."

Goodin says he's never seen that instrument in any homes, seeing how it runs upwards of $15,000.

But if you do have a mercury spill in your house, Wilkerson says you'll know soon enough.

"It affects your central nervous system," Wilkerson said. "The main people you have to look out for are children under twelve years old or pregnant women because they are developing and have developing systems."

In the clean up effort, Wilkerson says DNR is focusing on getting mercury out of schools.

"We've had several schools over in the southwest area that have broken it. In some places, they've had to shut down the schools because they tracked it all over the place," Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson says it's important not to try to clean up mercury yourself.

He says that's what DNR is there for.

Copyright 2010 KFVS. All rights reserved.