WENTZVILLE, Mo. – The US Environmental Protection Agency is investigating after a Wentzville child was taken to the hospital after suffering from mercury poisoning. About five months ago the child spilled a small vial of elemental mercury while playing. The substance can be difficult to clean up and can linger for a very long time. The agency expanded the search for more contaminated places to other homes and schools.
The hospital called the EPA on Friday after determining the child was poisoned. Investigators from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources went to the child’s home to perform a screening on Saturday. They found elevated mercury levels throughout the home.
Elemental mercury can evaporate at room temperature to become an invisible, odorless, toxic vapor. Once spilled, mercury beads can scatter and settle into nooks and cracks in the floor. If it is not properly cleaned up, it can remain for months or years and cause an ongoing health risk.
The EPA found high levels of mercury at two other homes on Sunday and they are still working on more assessments. Families at the homes have been relocated and crews are removing contaminated items.
Six schools in the Wentzville School District were identified as potential locations for assessments. The EPA and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources discovered that they were not contaminated.
Possible symptoms of mercury poisoning may include:
- Loss of peripheral vision
- “Pins and needles” feelings, usually in the hands, feet, and around the mouth
- Lack of coordination of movements
- Impairment of speech, hearing, walking and/or
- Muscle weakness