Mercury spill at Columbus school exposes classroom risk

COLUMBUS, OH (WOIO) - Spring break is starting a day early for students at Johnson Park Middle School in Columbus after an old thermometer containing mercury broke inside a science classroom.

Reports say about 40 students were in the classroom at the time. It's believed contents got onto several students and a teacher's clothing and shoes.

Columbus City Schools said an investigation is underway as to why a thermometer containing mercury was in the classroom.

Because of risks associated with mercury thermometers, some schools use alcohol, mineral spirits, glass bulb or digital thermometers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to mercury vapors can cause cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and visual disturbances.

Extreme exposure to mercury can cause more serious damage to a person's nervous and immune systems.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry offers detailed information for how schools should handle mercury spills.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also has detailed information on how to properly handle a spill.

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