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Mercury Spill Closes Norwalk Medical Office

A broken blood pressure cuff and gauge drew the Norwalk Fire Department and the Fairfield County Haz-Mat Team to the offices of the Norwalk Medical Group on Tuesday. The conditions were serious. The spygnamometer contained mercury: a shiny silvery fluid metal known to cause serious health problems , according to the New York State Department of Health. Breathing small amounts of mercury vapor can harm the nervous system of babies and children.

Emergency personnel were called to the office on the fourth floor of a medical office building at 40 Cross St. at 11:26 a.m. About 40 to 50 patients and staff were present when the spygnamometer was found broken in a patient care room. The mercury did not affect some, but some had an elevated level of mercury on their hands and shoes. They were decontaminated at the scene by washing with special soaps provided by the Haz-Mat Team. They were tested again afterward to make sure the levels had dropped to acceptable limits.

No one was taken to the hospital, but some people lost their belongings: about a dozen pairs of shoes and a canvas handbag were taken. The handbag's contents were returned to its owner.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and Norwalk Health Department officials also responded to the scene, which was cleared at 5:07 p.m.

The fourth floor was closed Wednesday for the ongoing cleanup. Workers in third floor medical offices said they had not been aware of any problem Tuesday.

Would you know what to do in the case of a mercury spill? What would you do if you broke a mercury thermometer?

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