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Children hospitalized after mercury contamination at New Britain home

<i>WFSB</i><br/>Two children were hospitalized after a mercury contamination at a home in New Britain
Two children were hospitalized after a mercury contamination at a home in New Britain

By Evan Sobol, Erin Edwards, Marcy Jones and Rob Polansky

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    NEW BRITAIN, Connecticut (WFSB) — Two children were hospitalized after a mercury contamination at a home in New Britain on Tuesday.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said it happened at a home on Hatch Street.

It said one of the children found a jar with silver-colored liquid and began playing with it.

“Another juvenile, upon seeing this, scooped up the liquid and disposed of it,” DEEP said.

Those two children were said to be recovering in the hospital.

Neighbors told Channel 3 that they were concerned when they saw a heavy amount of police activity at the home on Tuesday.

“There was a whole bunch of police officers my husband and I didn’t know what was going on,” said Jennifer Zayas, a neighbor.

Zayas said the family that lives there was new to the neighborhood.

“Maybe a month or a month and a half, but they were very kind, very sweet and really working hard to repair that house and get it up and running and improve it for our street,” Zayas said.

DEEP said that the home was considered to be contaminated following the incident.

“Upon arrival at the residence, ERU personnel conducted testing and found levels close to 600 times the permissible limit for human exposure to mercury,” it said.

Five other people in the home were taken to the hospital to be checked for mercury exposure, officials said.

Chemistry professor Robert Hansen said mercury mostly targets the nervous system.

“A lot of mercury that is around comes from things like thermometers, thermostats. It is used quite a lot in electric switches because it’s a metal, it’s liquid so it conducts electricity. [It’s] definitely something you don’t want to play with,” Hansen said.

“DEEP is working with the city and the local health department to relocate the inhabitants of the home,” officials said.

There was no risk to the public.

It remained unclear on Tuesday morning why there was a jar of mercury in the home.

“Exposure to mercury is extremely harmful. If you find a silvery liquid, do not play with it or handle it. Contact a professional to properly dispose of it,” DEEP said.

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