NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (WTNH) — Dangerous levels of mercury inside a New Britain home sent seven people, including two children, to the hospital on Tuesday. 

“I’ve been living over here for a pretty long time and never seen anything like this,” said Francisco Rivera, a neighbor. “I was surprised!”

The DEEP Emergency Response Unit (ERU) responded to a call from a local hospital to investigate possible mercury contamination at a home on Hatch Street. Officials said, one of the children located a jar of silver liquid inside of the Hatch Street home and began playing with it. Upon seeing this, another child scooped up the liquid and disposed of it. 

“I feel sorry for the two kids,” Rivera told News 8. 

Upon arrival at the residence, ERU personnel conducted testing and found levels close to 600 times the permissible limit for human exposure to mercury. The home has been condemned by the local health department and the next steps for the home are being determined. DEEP is working with the city of New Britain and the local health department to relocate the home’s residents.

On Wednesday, News 8 spoke with Thomas Burkholder about mercury and its potential dangers. He’s a professor of chemistry at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain. 

“Mercury is an element; it’s one of the very few liquid elements at room temperature,” said Thomas Burkholder, professor of chemistry at CCSU. “The longer period of time you’re exposed to it, the more it accumulates, the more risk you have.”

He explained what mercury was used for previously.

“Given the industrial history of Connecticut, it was used widely for a number of reasons,” said Burkholder.  “One of the more common uses of mercury was in these little fever thermometers. Generations of people probably used these when they were kids.”

It was also used for switches and thermostats.

“It’s not as dangerous through touching and other things like that, it’s really the inhaling of the vapor that occurs,” said Dr. Michelle McDade, Associate Chief of the Emergency Department at the Hospital of Central Connecticut. “So, as a result of that, you get a reaction in the lungs because it’s irritating. You might cough, you might get short of breath, you might have some chest burning. Symptoms of that sort.” 

Dr. Michelle McDade, Associate Chief of the Emergency Department at the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain, said if you’ve been exposed to mercury, one of your first calls should be to poison control.

“They’ll help you go through the potential exposures, and they will absolutely tell you whether you need to present to care,” said McDade. “There are medications we can give that bind the mercury and can remove it from the system.”

She said these types of incidents are very uncommon.

“I’ve been a doctor for almost 20 years, and I’ve treated zero patients with this,” said McDade.

DEEP added if you find a jar of silver liquid , do not play with it or handle it and contact a professional to properly dispose of it.