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Mercury Initiative


DNREC Secretary Orders Claymont Steel to Reduce Mercury Emissions

Salvage Dealers Invited to Participate in New National Program to Remove Mercury Switches

Frequently Asked Quesions: Mercury

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is taking strong steps to reduce the amount of mercury entering the environment of the First State. DNREC Secretary John A. Hughes has 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’re crushed and shredded.

About Mercury

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
Ali Mirzakhalili, Administrator
Air Quality Management Section

Mercury Switch Recycling Program: 
Karen J’Anthony, Program Manager
Hazardous Waste Group

Hospitals for a Healthy Environment:
Crystal Nagyiski, Program Manager
Pollution Prevention Program

Delaware Air Toxics Assessment Study:
Joseph Martini, Program Manager
Air Surveillance Branch

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