WASHINGTON COUNTY - Aside from the environmental risks associated with mercury, the chemical also poses health risks to consumers who are exposed to it when a compact fluorescent light bulb breaks, particularly in warm or poorly ventilated indoor spaces, experts say.
There is not much certainty regarding what level of mercury exposure is safe, but it's worth taking precautions, especially when it comes to protecting pets, young children and pregnant women, said Michael Bender, director of the Vermont-based Mercury Policy Project.
Mercury is a neurotoxin, and the brains of children are especially vulnerable, Bender said. Children also have a higher respiration rate, and they usually are shorter and closer to the source, causing a higher exposure, he said.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, symptoms of mercury exposure include tremors, emotional changes, insomnia, neuromuscular changes (such as weakness and twitching), headaches, disturbances in sensations, changes in nerve responses and performance deficits on tests of cognitive function. At higher exposures, there might be kidney effects, respiratory failure and death.