Three elementary students hospitalized after playing with mercury

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on October 28, 2012 at 10:37 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 30 at 12:36 PM

Urban Park Elementary School

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DALLAS — The EPA is at a Dallas Elementary school Monday, cleaning up a mercury spill at Urban Park Elementary School.

Three siblings were hospitalized after getting sick.

The district said in a statement one of the Urban Park students brought a container of mercury to school. It spilled nearly two weeks ago, but the district only found out Friday after the youngsters were hospitalized for treatment of mercury poisoning.

According to Region 6 EPA spokesperson Dave Bary, a student apparently brought a small container of mercury found near some railroad tracks to school. The container is about the size of a bottle of Elmer's glue. A portion of the container was spilled near a stairwell on the second floor. Mercury was also detected at two residential properties. The EPA is now working to clean up the areas.

DISD said it has been advised by health experts at the UT Southwestern Medical Center toxicology service, the North Texas Poison Center and the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) the spill does not represent a hazard to other students, and it notified staff and parents Sunday night. Absorption of mercury is apparently not the biggest concern, inhalation of mercury is.

A letter will be sent home Monday, and the district is holding a meeting at school Tuesday night on the incident.

Mercury is a shiny, silver-white, odorless liquid metal used in many common household items, including lights, thermostats, paint, and button batteries. According to the ATSDR, exposure to high levels of mercury can damage the brain and kidneys.

The EPA says symptoms of exposure can include impairment of peripheral vision; "pins and needles" feelings in hands, feet and around the mouth; lack of coordinated movements; speech, hearing and walking impairment; and muscle weakness.


STATEMENT FROM THE DALLAS INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT

Experts report mercury spill at Urban Park poses no health risk to students or staff

Dallas ISD worked over the weekend with the Dallas County Health Department, the EPA, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the North Texas Poison Center to clean a mercury spill at Urban Park Elementary School.

At this time, based upon the information we have received, we believe that the mercury is not a health hazard to students or staff at the school as per the health-based recommendations of the federal Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

Based on indoor air testing results, short duration of exposure and limited number of locations where the mercury was detected, health experts at the UT Southwestern Medical Toxicology service, the North Texas Poison Center, and the ATSDR have advised that no health effects for students, family members, or teachers are expected from the spill.

The mercury was brought to school by a student who found a container of it near his/her home. It was spilled in a hallway while parent-teacher conferences were taking place on October 17th and was never reported until Friday. The student and siblings have been hospitalized since last week because of symptoms consistent with mercury poisoning.

The staff at Urban Park was updated on the situation this weekend. Parents will receive a letter from the school on Monday and will have an opportunity to learn more during a special meeting scheduled for Tuesday night. As an additional precautionary measure, some of the students will have their shoes tested today.

The health, safety and well-being of our students and staff is always our top priority and we are doing our best to work through this extraordinary situation. The Dallas Independent School District is greatly appreciative of the extra effort taken over the weekend by a number of agencies to assist with this effort.

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