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Action levels for elemental mercury spills : Chemical-Specific Health Consultation for Joint EPA/ATSDR National Mercury Cleanup Policy Workgroup
  • Published Date:
    March 22, 2012
  • Language:
Filetype[PDF-363.44 KB]

  • Corporate Authors:
    United States. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine. Prevention, Response and Medical Support Branch. Emergency Response Team. ; Joint EPA/ATSDR National Mercury Cleanup Policy Workgroup ;
  • Description:
    In 2000, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) provided tables of action level guidelines for indoor air concentrations of elemental or metallic mercury in response to a request from both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of Michigan. The action levels had been previously developed for individual sites and situations, but the tables summarized these guidelines in a succinct package for use by field personnel. The request was prompted by several small spills in homes caused by replacing or relocating natural gas regulators containing mercury. The homes affected included those serviced by utility companies in both Chicago and Detroit. The guidelines were designed to help risk managers at spill scenes in homes or other locations make decisions regarding cleanup, relocation, etc. Throughout the years, these action level guidelines have been widely disseminated by users. A workgroup has been formed jointly by EPA and ATSDR to develop consistent cleanup guidance for mercury spills, including not only public health actions but also cleanup and sampling methods. As part of that joint effort, EPA has requested that ATSDR update the 2000 guidelines to be included in a more comprehensive guidance. This health consultation is intended to provide that update.

    The health consultation provides detailed justifications for action levels based on the ATSDR Chronic Minimal Risk Level and EPA Reference Concentration. The recommended action levels for mercury in residential settings remain 1 ug/m3 for normal occupancy and 10 ug/m3 for isolation (e.g., evacuation, limited access, etc.) of the residents from exposure to the mercury. Action levels for settings other than residential are based on residential levels and adjusted for the condition based on the presumed exposure. Sections that describe when action levels should be adjusted to meet site specific conditions are included. The most useful features of the 2000 tables have been retained; new sections have been added that address issues related to the tables that have recurred during the past 11 years. Additional information to help on-scene risk managers communicate risk is provided. Technological advances in detecting environmental mercury are also considered.


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