Question of the Day – Thursday July 19, 2018

Question – Workers at a lamp recycling facility may be at risk for the development of toxicity from what metal?

Answer – A recent report noted “Workers at the lamp recycling facility were exposed to mercury in the air, had elevated urine mercury levels, and experienced signs and symptoms of mercury toxicity. Previous investigations have reported that 33% of mercury is released from bulbs in the first 8 hours after breakage, and that processing in an open area decreases exposure. According to a U.S. Department of Energy report, approximately 3.8 billion fluorescent lamps were installed in the United States during 2010. Recycling used fluorescent lamps prevents release of mercury and other metals into the environment and allows reclamation of materials for reuse……..In this investigation, environmental measurements likely underestimated workers’ exposure to mercury because processing was suspended during the site visit and the bay door was open during sampling. Although the spot environmental mercury vapor concentrations measured in this investigation cannot be directly compared with the time-weighted averages used in OSHA, NIOSH, and ACGIH guidelines, this investigation indicates increased risk for adverse health effects from mercury exposure to workers in fluorescent lamps recycling facilities, with potential for take-home exposure and environmental contamination.” (Wilson E et al. Occupational mercury exposure at a fluorescent lamp recycling facility- Wisconsin, 2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018; 67:763-766)