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Missouri girl hospitalized after rare mercury spill

November 6, 2021 GMT

WENTZVILLE, Mo. (AP) — An eastern Missouri girl is hospitalized and three households have been evacuated after a rare mercury spill.

Jen Niswonger of Wentzville first took her four children to the doctor this summer when they all broke out in rashes. Her 11-year-old daughter didn’t get better. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that it wasn’t until Oct. 29 that medical tests determined the child suffered from mercury poisoning.

Niswonger’s household and two others in Wentzville were evacuated after the Environmental Protection Agency found high levels of mercury on surfaces and in the air.

Officials say the initial poisoning happened when children were playing with a vial of liquid elemental mercury and it spilled.

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EPA spokesman David Bryan said such incidents are rare, in part because technological advancements in thermometers and lightbulbs have largely kept mercury out of people’s homes.

Elemental mercury seeps through the fatty cells around the brain and nerves. It can lead to tremors, tingling of the hands or mouth, vision changes and trouble sleeping.

The remedy is usually to allow it to slowly leave the body through feces or urine, but Niswonger’s daughter faces weeks in the hospital.

“Somebody just had this poison lying around,” Niswonger said, “and a child got a hold of it.”