The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is taking strong steps to reduce the amount of mercury entering the environment in First State. Former DNREC Secretary John A. Hughes ordered Claymont Steel to clean up mercury emissions at its steel mini mill in New Castle County. DNREC is also inviting the state’s salvage dealers to participate in a national voluntary program to remove and recycle mercury switches from vehicles before they are crushed and shredded.
Mercury, also called “quicksilver”, is a naturally occurring metal that is a shiny, silver-white, odorless liquid at room temperature. If heated, it vaporizes into an odorless gas. In nature, mercury can combine with other elements, such as chlorine, sulfur or oxygen, to form various salts that appear as white powder or crystals. Microscopic organisms in water and soil also combine mercury with carbon to form organic mercury compounds, the most common of which is methylmercury.
Despite the fact that mercury is a naturally occurring substance, at certain levels it is toxic. Mercury exposure can cause numbness, burning or tingling of the lips, fingers and toes, weakness, memory loss, brain and kidney damage and low birth weight. People are primarily exposed to mercury by eating mercury contaminated fish. Delaware currently has fish consumption advisories due to mercury contamination.
In 2005, the Division of Air & Waste Management began taking a hard look at releases of mercury in Delaware and how to reduce them. Initiatives include:
Other Helpful Links
For more information contact:
Air Pollution Regulations:
Division of Air Quality
Mercury Switch Recycling Program:
Karen J’Anthony, Program Manager
Hazardous Waste Group
Delaware Air Toxics Assessment Study:
Joseph Martini, Program Manager
Air Surveillance Branch