Supplement for Classroom Teachers
Mercury, a metal, is naturally present in the environment. In this issue of Conservationist for Kids (C4K), we discuss where mercury is found and modern uses for it. We also discuss how mercury may enter the environment as a by-product of human activities, and how students and their families can reduce it in their environment, their homes and their schools.
People have used mercury for thousands of years and for many purposes. We use it today in button-cell batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, and many other products. When we use or dispose of products which contain mercury, we must do so in a safe manner, as the effects of mercury exposure on human health can be deadly and the environmental effects far reaching.
Emissions from coal-fired power plants are the primary source of anthropogenic mercury in the atmosphere, from which it may be deposited in water and on land. Reduced demand for energy can result in reduced emissions of all kinds-including mercury-from power plants.
In addition to DEC, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) has concerns about mercury. They issue advisories about mercury in fish, helping us make healthy dietary choices. DOH also addresses mercury in schools. They note that in some communities, elemental mercury is used in cultural or religious practices, which may include wearing a glass pendant filled with elemental mercury. If the pendant breaks or leaks, a mercury spill occurs. Even a small spill can be hazardous.
Cleaning up a mercury spill, whether from a chemistry lab, a broken thermometer or another source, can be expensive and time consuming. Mercury spills in schools can be avoided by removing as many sources of mercury as reasonable. Detailed information about mercury in schools and how to safely remove it is available from DEC and DOH (see Online Resources on the back of this page).
This Issue's "Outside Page"
The Outside Page of this issue of C4K addresses how families can limit their exposure to mercury. It's astounding how many sources of mercury may be present in our homes. Awareness is the first step to taking action to remove it.
For teachers who have participated in a Project WILD Aquatic, Project WET or Project Learning Tree workshop, the activities listed below complement the fall 2012 issue of Conservationist for Kids. Get information about workshops and about how to obtain curriculum and activity guides.
- Project WILD Aquatic: Watershed, What's in the Water?, Where Does Water Run?
- Project Learning Tree: Pollution Search
- Project WET and Project WET 2.0: Sum of the Parts, There is No Away
Do you have an interactive white board in your classroom?
If you use a SMART® Board or similar interactive white board or projection system in your classroom, consider downloading a PDF of C4K and using it in your classroom, along with the printed copies enclosed in this mailing. See this issue and all of our back issues.