Wednesday, January 4, 2012

“Mad As a Hatter”: Truth or Myth

Mercury has long been known to be toxic. The phrase "mad as a hatter" refers to the 19th-century occupational disease that resulted from prolonged contact with the mercury used in the manufacture of felt hats. Along with felt hats, mercury has been taken out of many manufacturing processes and products—as the dangers of mercury exposure become more well known.

Most mercury pesticides have been withdrawn from the U.S. market, and many countries banned ocean dumping of mercury and other pollutants in 1972. Production of mercury-containing interior and exterior paints in the United States was phased out in 1991. Mercury, which has been used in medicines for hundreds of years, continues to be used in various folk remedies that can cause mercury exposures. The use of mercury in dental amalgam for tooth fillings has stirred escalating controversy in recent years. Most other medical uses have been banned or are being phased out.

Despite these changes, some workers today, especially laboratory technicians, nurses, and machine operators, continue to be exposed to mercury on the job. Elemental mercury (the silver liquid familiar in thermometers) is a common occupational source of exposure. Fragile fluorescent lamps and compact fluorescent lamps if broken represent another mercury exposure risk as they are handled by manufacturers, transporters, distributors, retailers, consumers and installers, as well as recycling or waste handlers. There are currently no universally enforced packaging standards designed to protect these people. There now exists a proven packaging design with a vapor resistant and zip seal bag that should be mandated to protect people who work with or near fluorescent lamps, as well as for protecting the surrounding environment.

Brad Buscher
Chairman and CEO
VaporLok Products LLC

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