What happens when you spill mercury all over your school bus

Last September, an elementary school student in North Carolina brought a pound of mercury on board a school bus. The kids played with it, as kids are wont to do, and then spilled it all over the bus floor. The result: A thorough scrubbing for the kids and for the bus ... the crusher.

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  1. The son of a friend of mine broke open one end of an old mercury thermometer and, being a curious young person, decided to see what would happen if he stuck the closed end in boiling water. The result was a hazmat team being sent to clean up their house, and a regimen of pills for everyone living there. The good thing is, while he agreed to never do anything like that again without permission, he thought the whole experience was really cool.

    I hope they make a field trip to the junkyard and let the kids see the bus being crushed. It would be a great lesson that science can be dangerous and toxic chemicals should be treated with respect, but that accidents can also be a fun learning opportunity.

  2. This story is incredible on a number of levels. I mean, what's got me curious is what the heck was the neighbor doing with a pound of mercury in his shed? There's a lot of uses for the stuff, but nothing really home-hobbyish that I can think of. Not even back in the 60's hobbies, when grown men cheerfully splashed around in radioactive mail-order stuff.

    Then there's the school response: quick, responsible and sane. Get everyone tested, get the worst of the folks who were exposed on (what I am assuming is) a treatment program to cleanse the stuff from your system, and wipe the bus from existence. I don't think it was anything too dramatic; probably a comptroller somewhere talked to a specialty place about the costs of decontamination while his finger ran down a line of asset devaluation on the bus fleet. Some quick math later, and that baby was headed for the crusher.

    Of course, the fantasies are just priceless. The kid w/ the mercury is a hero! Due to his irresponsibly cool actions, people got sick and a bus was destroyed. You just made yourself the center of a school myth, dude.

  3. If anything, crushing the bus isn't going far enough. As Terminator 2: Judgement Day clearly demonstrated, the only sure way to keep mercury from harming children is to hurl it into a giant vat of molten steel.

  4. Eksrae says:

    Whereas if he would have brought a plastic pistol the size of a quarter, the response would have been a call to the police, suspension, and a court date.

  5. If they've only got the budget to scrub one thing and crush the other, they probably made the best choice.

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