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Students Seen Flinging Mercury With Bare Hands

Fri Oct 3,10:27 PM ET Add Local - WJLA to My Yahoo!

(Washington) -


Parents eager to meet with officials at the school closed by mercury contamination will have to wait until Thursday.

The principal says he will use the back-to-school night for the planned meeting with parents at Ballou High School in Southeast D.C. At the meeting, he says he expects to explain what happened and what was done in response, as well as take questions.

Mercury was found yesterday in several areas of Ballou, forcing the school to close Friday. Investigators believe it was taken from a school lab. According to witnesses at Ballou, some students were seen carrying the chemical in a plastic bag. In one case, a girl reportedly took her bare hands and started flinging it all over the wall.

As the search for the culprits continues, so does the clean-up. Officials hope to re-open the building Monday. Otherwise, they plan to hold classes elsewhere.

Assistant superintendent William Wilhoyte warns as many as 400 Ballou students may have had direct or indirect contact with mercury. Symptoms including nausea, vomiting and a skin rash. So far, there are no reports of anyone being sickened.

Mercury is a naturally occurring element that has several forms. The kind found in the school is described as a shiny, silver-white and odorless liquid.

Anyone who touches mercury should wash with soap and cold water because cold water closes the pores. They should also see a doctor.

School officials say not only was the mercury found in several classrooms, but the cafeteria as well.

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