Mercury Spills Subject of New Videos

Posted on: September 3, 2013

mercuryMedia and Information(TISM) faculty member, Amol Pavangadkar, is helping educate the public about the dangers of mercury spills through several videos he produced. The videos were funded with grant money from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and in partnership with the Michigan Departments of Community Health (MDCH) and Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

Over the past year and a half, Pavangadkar, senior producer and outreach specialist with TISM and a CAS alumnus, produced seven informational videos about mercury, the silvery liquid found in old fever thermometers, thermostats and other items that when spilled, may pose a health risk.

The most recent video is about the dangers of mercury vapor and how it works. The 11-minute video, hosted on the MDCH YouTube Channel, is intended for a nationwide audience and will be used for training by the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Pavangadkar also produced six public service announcement videos, five of which were shown at all Michigan Secretary of State offices from Sept. 24-Oct. 31 last year, to help raise awareness about the dangers of mercury spills.

"We found there was a lack of true and tested information on mercury, so the idea was to give viewers the complete experience," Pavangadkar said. "We hope they appreciate the dangers of mercury. It's very dangerous, but is easy to stay away from.

"I remember playing with mercury when I was a kid. Now that I have children of my own, what I have learned while working with MDCH has really hit home."

While there are state laws that restrict the sale and certain uses of mercury in Michigan, there are a lot of mercury bearing items still present and spills do occur.

"The vapors given off by mercury can't be seen or smelled, but are potentially very harmful, especially to children and pregnant women," said Dr. Matthew Davis, chief medical executive at the MDCH. "Because these vapors can harm the central nervous system and kidneys, and have the ability to cause damage permanently, it's critically important that people know what to do to prevent and properly clean up after a mercury spill."

The videos show a number of important techniques for handling mercury, including steps to take for prevent a spill, how cleanups should be handled, the dangers associated with contamination, and more.

Spills can be prevented by removing mercury from homes and most workplaces. The MDCH and MDEQ encourage recycling mercury rather than putting it in the trash. Household hazardous waste collections often accept mercury-containing items for safe disposal. To find out where to properly dispose of mercury, contact your local health department.

Pavangadkar has produced and directed more than 35 media projects, including promotional, training, educational and music videos and films. He has a master's degree from CAS in Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media.

His interest in the environment has led to a range of collaborations with scientists, journalists and educators to research and inform the public about environmental issues. Besides mercury poisoning, he has covered recycling, biofuels and bio energy, energy efficiency, climate change, sustainability and waste reduction.

Pavangadkar is a recipient of the prestigious faculty seminar fellowship from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for 2012.

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