Word of the Day: Heavy Metal

Some kid in Worcester brought a jar of mercury to class to show his teacher. The teacher opened the jar, touched the mercury and a few drops spilled on the floor. Major panic.

Now, children are being evacuated from the school, homes are being tested, backpacks sealed in hazmat bags and a specialized cleaning of the school is in progress.

Whew!

What anyone was doing with a jar of mercury is open for discussion. Maybe the kid’s mom is a dental hygienist. Mine was. She worked every day but sometimes when if I was home sick from school, she would come leave work in her white uniform and shoes and come home at lunchtime to heat me up a can of chicken noodle soup. Sometimes she’s bring me home a little present  – like a sparkly ring that she nabbed from the dentist’s prize drawer or a Highlight’s magazines from the waiting room or sometimes…she brought me home a little jar of mercury.

They used it to mix up silver amalgam filling material. The mercury was magical.  It was beautiful and shiny – surprisingly heavy – and it burst into perfect tiny balls when you squished it with your finger or accidentally dropped it on the kitchen linoleum. I rocked the blob of mercury in my palm, rubbed it between my fingers and kept it next to my box of Kleenex while I lay on the couch and watched “Perry Mason” reruns.

The Massachusetts Department of Health says that mercury exposure poses a serious health risk and that only after extensive testing and thorough cleaning will the kids in Worcester will be allowed back into the school building.

Sure, I think that pulling kids out of school was an overreaction. But just the same, the next time I go to the dentist, I will insist on the white fillings – there’s no mercury and they look nicer.

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