ELI Primary Menu

Skip to main content

Profiles of Innovative State Programs:

 

Michigan Dept. of Health & Human Services,

 Division of Environmental Health

 Educational Resources on the Health Effects of Mercury

 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has developed several informational resources addressing the dangers of mercury vapor to human health. Through these materials, the agency encourages proactive steps to prevent a mercury release.  MDHHS provides guidance for taking action in the event of a mercury spill, to prevent the spread of contamination and protect human health. Educational videos, fact sheets, and emergency contact information are also available to the public through a mercury portal on the MDHHS website.

Why is this Project Important?

Mercury is a liquid metal that can be found in certain household products. When exposed to the air, mercury gives off invisible vapors that can be extremely harmful if inhaled. Health effects of prolonged mercury exposure include damage to the central nervous system, kidneys, and lungs. Children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable, but too much mercury exposure can harm anyone.

In recent years, some states in the U.S. have enacted laws prohibiting the manufacture and sale of certain mercury-containing products.  Even in states where mercury is being phased out, however, it may still be present in older products such as thermometers, thermostats, and barometers. When mercury spills are cleaned up promptly and properly, serious mercury poisoning can be avoided. Taking measures such as recycling old thermostats at a local hazardous waste office can reduce the risk of spills. The MDHHS’s educational campaign focuses on both prevention and cleanup.

What Materials and Resources Have Been Developed Under the Program?

The DHHS mercury portal provides a wide range of materials, including:

  • Information for residents, business owners, teachers, community organizers, responders and others in need of consultation services or cleanup help.
  • Videos that describe the hazards of mercury exposure, as well as step-by-step procedures for cleaning up a small spill safely.
  • Fact sheets on mercury spills in the home (“Mercury Spill Quick Guide,” “How to Clean Up Spilled Mercury,” and “Mercury Spills - Hiring a Cleanup Contractor”) that are accessible to a wide audience, as well as fact sheets addressing how trade workers can protect themselves and their clients when dealing with mercury in HVAC systems, electrical equipment, and plumbing.
  • Other resources, including a list of reports regarding mercury spill responses by MDHHS, help numbers to call in the event of an emergency, and links to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s mercury web site , which provides information on state-wide, mercury-related efforts.

Funded by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant, Michigan’s work is a more locally-targeted extension of federal resources also linked on the MDHHS portal. The USEPA and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's “Don’t Mess with Mercury” initiative for schools and the USEPA’s Mercury Website have information on additional sources of mercury, including power plant emissions, mercury releases and spills, and contaminated fish.

How Can You Learn More?

Visit the Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Resources mercury website: www.michigan.gov/mercury

Contact the agency via email (BushC6@michigan.gov) or phone (517-335-9717 or 1-800-648-6942).