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Q: Possible mercury poisoning from light bulbs ( No Answer,   6 Comments )
Subject: Possible mercury poisoning from light bulbs
Category: Health > Conditions and Diseases
Asked by: xipheus865-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 28 Oct 2006 17:05 PDT
Expires: 27 Nov 2006 16:05 PST
Question ID: 777902
In the past few years, I've been somewhat concerned about mercury
exposure and whether it's caused any personal neurological damage. 
There are two specific incidents of possible exposure that are
troubling me, and I've been unable to find much resolution about the
overall issue.
The first incident was about 4 years ago, when I accidentally broke a
4-foot bulb and cleaned it up without much thought (I wasn't aware of
the potential health consequences).  There is a good chance that I
walked through the powder ( I don't recall precisely) during cleanup. 
This situation troubles me because I'm worried that I subsequently
tracked the powder and mercury back into my house, and I'm not sure
how much mercury wears off as a result of normal walking.
The second incident was about 3 years ago, when somebody at my rowing
boathouse broke an 8-foot tube.  My rowing coach (apparently as
oblivious as I would have been) proceeded to vacuum the powder up. 
The boathouse is rather large, and very well ventilated (it has a
couple of huge doors open to the outside almost all the time), and
since I wasn't actually at the boathouse on the day of the spill, I
surmise that I missed most of the exposure.  On the other hand, I did
work out in the same room where the bulb broke, and these workouts
could involve an hour or more of heavy breathing right next to the
place of the accident.
As for my perceived symptoms, about two and a half years ago I began
noticing some possible memory issues (both short- and long-term), as
well as some occasional tremors and palpitations, which have almost
entirely subsided (the memory issues, however, still seem to persist).
 I've not been able to decide whether these perceived issues are
hypochondriacal/psychosomatic or whether they actually have a genuine
physical basis, and if it is the latter, whether that physical basis
is, in fact, mercury.  I'm currently a freshman in college, and I'm
doing fine academically (1580 SAT, for instance), but I feel as though
my memory could certainly be stronger (especially when I compare
myself to my peers).
I'm just hoping that some expert will be able to shed some light on my
questions; this has been an issue of deep, deep concern for me over
the past few years, and I'm looking for something approximating a
definitive answer.  I'm really just trying to determine whether or not
the level of mercury I encountered would be enough to cause the kinds
of symptoms I'm perceiving.  Thanks.

Clarification of Question by xipheus865-ga on 28 Oct 2006 17:18 PDT
I should mention out that none of my fellow rowers, including the ones
who were there at the boathouse on the day the 8-foot tube broke, have
reported any neurological issues or problems along those lines.  This
might be potentially relevant, I suppose.
There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: Possible mercury poisoning from light bulbs
From: stanmartin1952-ga on 28 Oct 2006 22:32 PDT
Have you been tested for mercury exposure?
Subject: Re: Possible mercury poisoning from light bulbs
From: myoarin-ga on 28 Oct 2006 22:40 PDT
You know we are talking about milligrams of mercury, maybe 100 or 200
in that eight foot tube, to be generous.  Everything one can find says
that mercury is very poisonous  - true -  so no one is saying don't
worry about it, making it difficult to get an answer to your question 
- but no one is reporting actual incidents of mercury poisoning from
broken fluorescent lights.
Here is website with some facts and numbers about exposure.  Remember,
you had two quite limited incidents, not continuous exposure.  You can
also be tested, which could be reassuring.

You mention that your fellow oarsmen didn't have any problems.  Could
it be that you were the only one who knew of the theoretical potential
danger, and that is why you perceived symptoms?

This all happened years ago, and you obviously aren't suffering
mentally with that SAT score.  Personally, I suspect that your
misgivings now result from your new academic environment, perhaps
being among peers also selected for their intellect, after high school
where you were among the outstanding. That can be an eye-opener.  I
had a roommate who read twice through the photos of freshmen for the
related girls college and could address them by name.  "Eye-opening"? 
Unnerving!  And there were others like that in different ways.  That
can make one question oneself and look for a reason why.

Take care and good luck, Myoarin

This is a free comment, not an "answer" to your question.
Subject: Re: Possible mercury poisoning from light bulbs
From: frde-ga on 29 Oct 2006 01:06 PST
MyOarin has a point.

When I got to Uni I was exposed to serious peer pressure for the first
time in my life.

One guy had a photographic memory and could scan a column of numbers
and add them up automatically - we used to get him to check restaurant
He was not so hot at thinking out of the box, which was my specialization.

You are probably experiencing benign competition and looking for a
physical explanation. Rationalizing things is rational.

Mercury is not a pleasant substance, but it has long been used in
silver amalgam dental fillings - without obviously lethal effect.
Subject: Re: Possible mercury poisoning from light bulbs
From: borisshah-ga on 29 Oct 2006 04:40 PST
In India, when I was around 10-12 years old, me and my friends smashed
a couple of fluorescent tubelights outside my house and once that was
done, just kept playing while the dust swirled around us. This was 5-6
years ago and I have had no adverse side effects as I am still fine
academically (all 50 state capitals anyone?). I too however have
noticed that my short term memory is slowly becoming worse.

My long term memory is still superb but I chalk it upto living in a
country whith verly little academic stimulation. Hopefully when I
enter University next year with more competion, it should return or
just not get worse.
Subject: Re: Possible mercury poisoning from light bulbs
From: markvmd-ga on 29 Oct 2006 09:09 PST
I took a sample of mercury in to grade school and we played with it in
science class. Mikey B later got three life sentences for a series of
crimes but he used to stare at the sun while eating paint chips, so I
think his problem was lead.
Subject: Re: Possible mercury poisoning from light bulbs
From: myoarin-ga on 29 Oct 2006 10:08 PST
So did I:  great, fun stuff, so heavy rolling around dry in your hand;
smearing it on dimes (then silver) to make them shiny (later very
dull).  Not to be recommended, of course.
Cheers, Myo

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