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HEALTH Issues Warning About Risks of Mercury Following Childhood Poisoning

On Friday, a child from Cumberland was admitted to Hasbro Children’s Hospital with elevated levels of mercury. The child was treated and is being monitored by physicians. Staff at the Department of Health (HEALTH) traced the source of the exposure to the family’s residence and then worked with the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) to identify the exact location of the mercury contamination and remove it. HEALTH expects the mitigation to be completed this week. No other residents of the multi-family unit had symptoms of mercury poisoning and initial laboratory tests do not show that others have elevated mercury levels. Additional environmental testing confirmed that the mercury contamination did not spread beyond the home, so HEALTH does not believe anyone else in the community is at risk from this incident.

Common sources of mercury are older thermometers, thermostats, fluorescent light bulbs, batteries, and botanicals that may be used for religious or cultural traditions. Mercury cannot always be seen in these products, so people are not always aware of the danger.

“People may have items in their home or may be using products that contain mercury and not even know it,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Exposure to mercury, especially for children, can have harmful physical or neurological effects. We want people to understand the dangers of exposure to mercury and we want people to stop using any product that contains mercury.”

Symptoms of mercury exposure can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, increases in blood pressure or heart rate, skin rashes, and eye irritation. Anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to mercury should contact their healthcare provider.

To safely discard mercury-containing products, schedule an appointment at Eco-Depot by visiting http://www.rirrc.org/resident/household-hazardous-waste/. For more information on mercury prevention, visit http://www.health.ri.gov/healthrisks/poisoning/mercury.index.php.

Related links

Department or agency: Department of Health

Online: http://www.health.ri.gov

Release date: 02-28-2011

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