Because some herb-selling shops or "botanicas" sell mercury for use in homes, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is alerting consumers that mercury vapors (which have no odor) are hazardous. CPSC recommends that consumers avoid breathing mercury vapors. Most uses of mercury that expose consumers to fumes are banned. However, some ethnic traditions encourage the sprinkling of mercury around the house for religious reasons. This is hazardous because people - especially young children - could breathe the mercury vapors.
Mercury can cause serious and permanent nerve and kidney damage. Mercury poisoning (acrodynia) has these symptoms: rapid heartbeat, sweating, irritability or hostility, withdrawal or shyness, memory loss, peeling of hands and feet, leg pain, slight hand tremors, difficulty with fine motor control (such as handwriting), sleeplessness, and headaches. Young children and children born to women exposed during pregnancy may be especially sensitive.
If you believe you have mercury poisoning, see a doctor. If mercury has been sprinkled in your home, open all windows so the mercury vapors can escape. It may take several days of ventilation to eliminate the mercury. If you have questions about how to clean up and dispose of mercury, call your local health department. To avoid mercury poisoning, do not sprinkle mercury around the house or expose people in the home to mercury vapors.
NOTE: To report an unsafe consumer product or a product- related injury, consumers should call the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's toll-free hotline at 1-800-638-2772. A teletypewriter for the hearing impaired is available at 1-800- 638-8270.