Mercury exposure: manage the risks

Mercury and radionuclides (NORM) are in the top four toxic contaminants that pose a significant threat to human health. As explained in the 2016 World’s Worst Pollution Problems: The Toxics Beneath our Feet report by Pure Earth and Green Cross Switzerland:

“In total, the 2,600 sites screened by Pure Earth and Green Cross Switzerland put close to 47 million people at risk for a wide range of health impacts. From this research we estimate that close to 200 million people are at risk from industrial pollution worldwide. The total global DALYs attributable to pollution from industrial sources are estimated to be 17 million.”

Therefore, it is of the utmost importance for business to manage the exposure of people and the environment to mercury and NORM.  The best way to manage mercury exposure is to know and understand whether there is the potential for mercury in your process.

How to safely manage the risks of mercury exposure

  1. Determining mercury exposure starts with the front end of the planning cycle, when you are deciding how to build, own and operate your facilities and how you will manage the mercury and NORM waste generated by your business.  Starting with the end in mind, will assist your business to find practical solutions on how, where and when it is practical to remove mercury from all stages from the process.
  2. When there has not been an opportunity to do the front end planning, you can still safely manage the risks through ensuring that you follow the hierarchy of control with an appropriate mercury management plans to manage your exposure from planning & engineering, design through to operations, maintenance, decommissioning & closure. 
  3. The risks of managing mercury exposure in operations, maintenance, waste removal and disposal, transport and logistics, decontamination and/or decommissioning is through understanding
    a) when to use specialist PPE such as respirators, tyvek suits
    b) having the right safe work procedures and standards in place
    c) sampling and analysis processes and procedures and other controls such as training in place to ensure that the exposure of people and the environment is managed at ALARP levels.

In the end, the question is not really how much mercury you have. The question is how to manage your mercury and NORM waste in a safe way, because even small quantities can cause serious problems to the health of your people and the future of the environment.

BMT will manage your mercury and NORM responsibly wherever it is found. Contact BMT for your waste solution.

Steven Kranendonk

Director Business