The Household Nightmare Just A Little Bit Of Mercury Can Cause

By Eric Limer

When one homeowner found some mercury in his house, it took over two months and $50,000 to deal with it.

Imagine how surreal it must be to be doing a little cleaning up, and come across a strange dusty ball of liquid metal in your home. Jeff Kaufman doesn't have to imagine. It happened to him just this summer.

In a post on his personal blog, Kaufman recalls his initial reaction to finding the poisonous metal just chilling out in his home.

We all know mercury is dangerous, but in case you've forgotten the terrifying specifics, the metal makes you sick because it functions as a neurotoxin once its in the body. It's not especially dangerous as a liquid (unless you eat it or roll around in it), but if vaporized on a hot surface like a stovetop or refrigerator coil, it can be inhaled and cause myriad health problems including brain damage and nerve damage. It's scary stuff.

So naturally Kaufman got his wife and young daughter out of the house and then the Department of Environmental Protection showed up in hazmat suits to deal with the stuff. After 20 days of cleanup (with a cost of $38,491.54, not counting replacement floors, ceilings, appliances, etc), specialists carefully removed several cups of liquid mercury from Kaufman's home.

Where did it come from? An old heating system. As Kaufman explains:

It was during a previous renovation of this system that the seal likely broke, but it was not taken care of at the time. And when all was said and done, Kaufman's insurance wouldn't cover any of the cost and his family wound up responsible for the total ~$50,000 bill. Of course, any amount is worth the health and safety of your family, and in the grand scheme of things, this wasn't a terrible outcome.

So if you've got a house with an old heating system or you're thinking about moving into one, beware any hazardous metal that might be lurking in the walls. And if you're going to have it removed, have it done carefully and right. Just a little mercury can take you a long way down a bad road.

Source: Jeff Kaufman via Hacker News

Lead image via "Playing with some liquid metal mercury"