A Lab Safety Success Story – The Elimination of Non-Essential Sources of Mercury
The IUPUI Laboratory Safety Committee (now known as the Chemical Hygiene Committee) adopted the laboratory Mercury Reduction/Elimination Policy in June of 2006 with the intent of ultimately working towards a mercury-free campus. Subsequent to the adoption of the laboratory safety policy, IUPUI adopted a campus-wide mercury elimination policy as a Sustainability policy.
The policy established the objective of eliminating all nonessential uses of elemental mercury or mercury-based compounds from campus laboratories by December 31, 2007. An essential use of mercury was defined as a given instance where no acceptable alternative for the current use could be located or where implementation of a mercury alternative created a significant, long-term financial hardship to the department or research project.
Furthermore, the policy specified that in those instances where the use of mercury was found to be essential, the mercury was to be eliminated from the laboratory’s inventory once an ongoing need could no longer be demonstrated.
At the time of the adoption of the policy, mercury was the most commonly spilled chemical on campus and resulting in significant disruption to laboratory and educational operations and creating exposure concerns for faculty, students and staff and potential environmental contamination.
Now nearly ten years following adoption of the policy, the campus has effectively eliminated all known non-essential sources of mercury. The use of mercury is restricted to a handful of known locations on campus where mercury is used under controlled conditions.
Success of the mercury policy can be attributed to IUPU faculty and staff recognizing the hazard presented by mercury and offering their full support in the adoption and implementation of the policy. Also critical to the success of the policy is the fact that mercury has remained a priority inspection item for the IUPUI laboratory safety inspection program. Numerous sources of forgotten mercury have been located and eliminated during the course of laboratory safety inspections over the past 10 years.
The policy has since been adopted as a Indiana University system-wide program. You will find additional information in the Indiana University Mercury Reduction and Elimination Program.