Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable
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Mercury-Schools: P2 Opportunities
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Reasons for Change
P2 Opportunities
Key Contacts
Complete List of Links

Essential Links:

Identification of Mercury Devices in Schools Checklists
These tables assist school staff and/or state and local technical assistance providers in identifyin...

Interstate Mercury Education & Reduction Clearinghouse (IMERC) Mercury-Added Products Database
Maintained by the Northeast Waste Management Officials? Association (NEWMOA), this database presents...

Mercury in Schools and the Community: A National Issue
This participatory curriculum, adapted from Wisconsin?s ?Mercury in Your Community and the Environme...

Mercury Use: Educational Institutions
Part of the Wisconsin Mercury Sourcebook. Covers mercury use and pollution prevention in schools.

Mercury-Free Alternatives for Schools
The purpose of this fact sheet is to help schools identify and find alternatives to mercury and othe...

Strategies for Preventing Elemental Mercury Exposure in Homes and Schools
The purpose of this report is to identify and analyze strategies for reducing human exposure to elem...

U.S. EPA School Chemical Cleanout Campaign (SC3)
The Schools Chemical Cleanout Campaign (SC3) aims to ensure that all schools are free from hazards a...

There are several steps a school can take to prevent pollution caused by hazardous mercury spills.

  • establishing a pollution prevention program,
  • educating the school community about mercury,
  • and substituting non-mercury products for those that contain mercury.

Starting a school pollution prevention program is often effective.  The seven key steps to implementing a mercury program are:

  • Get commitment from administrators
  • Find a "champion" to lead the program
  • Form a team
  • Set waste reduction goals
  • Conduct a waste assessment
  • Implement changes based on adequate funding
  • Communicate results

Each of these steps has many opportunities for schools.  For example, getting commitment from administrators allows the school to demonstrate that it is a proactive in striving for a safer environment for both the school and community. By finding a champion, the school has an opportunity to identify people looking for leadership roles, especially a champion who can demonstrate creativity and ability to coordinate details.  When a team is formed, schools have the chance to allow diverse functions to work on common goal.  In this case, a results-oriented project, where short-term activities are important. Setting waste reduction goals include the ability to ?Stretch? the schools? environmental commitments, while recognizing problems. Conducting a waste assessment provides an opportunity for outside agencies to help, as well as to better understand the overall school operation and offer plenty of opportunities for change.  Many federal, state and local government agencies have existing programs and experts to assist school staff with implementing a Mercury program. 

 When schools implement necessary changes based on adequate funding, this allows for a variety of players to participate while achieving short- term results with long-term impacts.  Finally, opportunities achieved by communicating results include state waste reduction awards, employee newsletters, press and electronic media, parent and student awareness.

Mercury Prank to Close Schools for Two Days, Green Bay, Wisconsin 1999

Green Bay East High School will be closed until Wednesday as authorities continue to clean up a mercury spill caused by students.  School officials are still investigating how the poisonous liquid metal got into students' hands Friday.  Students spilled the mercury on the lanes of the Riviera Lanes bowling alley and poured it into balls during a class trip there.

Authorities were able to clean the bowling center so that it opened for a Wisconsin State Bowling Association tournament Saturday.  Hazardous-materials teams were called to the school Friday afternoon after students were found playing with elemental mercury.  Eighty-eight people, mostly students, were treated for contamination.

Superintendent Tom Joynt said closing school Monday and Tuesday should allow enough time for an environmental cleanup firm to remove all the mercury and test the air.  Green Bay police on Friday said a 14-year-old girl took the mercury from a classroom and shared it with friends.  Assistant Superintendent Daniel Nerad said officials didn't immediately know whether the mercury came from a school laboratory.  He said an investigation would determine whether the student faces disciplinary action.

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP)

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) is an effective way to reduce mercury in schools.  When purchasing products for schools, environmentally friendly products that are mercury-free should be sought. These environmental factors should be considered along with such traditional factors as performance, price, health, and safety.  Schools should implement an EPP policy for all of its purchases.  For more information on EPP, visit the EPP Topic Hub.  The benefits of EPP include: 

  • Improved ability to meet existing environmental goals
  • Improved worker safety and health
  • Reduced liabilities
  • Reduced health and disposal costs


Another pollution prevention opportunity is to educate the public on the dangers of mercury.  Different activities can be used in the classroom to teach children about the danger of mercury.  The lessons are constructed in hopes that children will take the information home and into the community with them to spread the word about mercury.  These activities should also be shared with school administrators and the school board.

Teachers can work with students to design and conduct a survey of their community on the subject of mercury and then evaluate the results of the survey as a class and design a plan to address the survey finds.  Reading newspaper articles about mercury spills in schools is also effective.  A trip down to the nurse?s office to check out the thermometers can also be interesting. 


In order to become a mercury-free school, products containing mercury need to be eliminated and substituted with non-mercury containing materials.  Some suggestions are:
  • Eliminate all elemental mercury from labs
  • Replace mercury thermometers with aneroid or electric thermometers
  • Identify mercury containing switches, label and replace when servicing
  • Replace the nurse?s sphygmomanometers
  • Use low mercury fluorescent bulbs


The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

The Mercury-Schools Topic Hub™ was developed by:

Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable
Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable
Contact email:

Hub Last Updated: 9/7/2010

GLRPPR is a member of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange, a national network of regional information centers: NEWMOA (Northeast), WRRC (Southeast), GLRPPR (Great Lakes), ZeroWasteNet (Southwest), P2RIC (Plains), Peaks to Prairies (Mountain), WSPPN (Pacific Southwest), PPRC (Northwest).


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