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Calif. family hospitalized after kids play with vial of mercury

The children found a full, open vial of mercury in a freezer; the apartment unit was immediately evacuated

By Rory Appleton
The Fresno Bee

FRESNO, Calif. — Two parents and their four children are in the hospital Saturday after the kids played with a full, open vial of mercury found in a box with a freezer unit purchased earlier at a storage container auction, the Fresno Fire Department said.

Battalion Chief Ron Stogdell said the department received a hazardous material call around 3 p.m. at the Brooks Villa Apartments in central Fresno. Crews confirmed the release of about 2-3 ounces, much larger than the amount typically found in a thermometer, of the silver metallic liquid. Mercury is very dangerous if ingested or vaporized.

The apartment unit was immediately evacuated, and fire and ambulance crews scrubbed the family with soap and water at a decontamination station set up near their patio. The family did not show any symptoms of poisoning, but Fresno County Health Department representatives sent them to Community Regional Medical Center to have blood tests taken as a precaution.

The apartment was quarantined until agents from the California Emergency Management Agency could arrive, Stogdell said. The family’s furniture, carpet, clothing and anything else that came into contact with the mercury will have to be destroyed.

The family won’t be allowed to return to their apartment for at least several weeks, Stogdell said. The American Red Cross was called in to assist them.

No other units or people were exposed during the incident.


©2015 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)