ARCADIA, Fla. - WINK News is asking doctors how a mercury scare in southwest Florida can affect your health.
Investigators say a contamination that started at DeSoto Middle School in Arcadia is now spreading. WINK News was there Wednesday as the Department of Environmental Protection tested classrooms, clothing and bags at the school, and even went to students' houses. Fort Myers Dr. Gary Pynckel tells us symptoms all depend on how much you're exposed to. In this case, we're only talking about a small amount of mercury - less than an ounce. Still, it is very toxic and even a little bit can make you sick, especially if you're young.
Investigators are calling this mercury scare a likely case of show and tell gone wrong."I used to play with it, thirty or forty years ago in my hands," Pynckel said. "I didn't know the effects of it. Nobody did. Ingestion is something to be very concerned about."
Pynckel tells says you can accidentally ingest mercury through the air, food and even your skin. The heavy metal kills cells on contact, and is especially harmful to the liver, kidneys and brain.
"In acute exposure, you're looking for symptoms of weakness, blurred vision, headaches and vomiting," Pynckel said. "You can get low blood sugar and increased potassium because of the breakdown of the cells."
The list goes on. Any amount can be a problem, especially for children. That's why Dr. Pynckel says the EPA must take every precaution. If you're worried about exposure, he suggests getting a blood test.
"We live in a very toxic world - lead, aluminum, cadmium, nickel, mercury," Pynckel said. "Even a little bit can make you sick."
Dr. Pynckel says mercury exposure can be treated through IVs and other detox procedures.
School leaders tell WINK News that DeSoto Middle School will be closed the rest of the week as the EPA continues to do testing.