It seems like part of being a woodworker is repairing old furniture, whether it’s your own or someone else’s. You’re probably already aware that working on old pieces like that can present some health concerns (lead paint exposure, for example). As it turns out, there are some other things you should be concerned about when repairing or even moving some antiques.
Discovery News is citing some info from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) about the hazards of heavy metals in antiques. Old mirrors may have been backed with mercury and tin. And clock pendulums or lamp bases may contain mercury. You know…it’s the stuff you used to play with when you were a kid. It’s since been found to be a health hazard.
I remember a few years ago, my wife and I found an old bottle of mercury that had belonged to my mother-in-law, a nurse. Being the responsible citizen, I took it to our local township volunteer fire department/police station. I was essentially told to “get it out of here…we’re not responsible if something happens…you’re on your own.” Wow! I explained that I had several children in the home and I didn’t want it in my house. It didn’t matter. They insisted I remove it from their premises immediately. So, I took it home. I ended up having to call the county hazardous materials department. They sent a guy out. Turns out he was an old classmate of mine in high school. He laughed when I told him what my local fire department told me, but he donned heavy rubber gloves, removed the bottle from the house, wrapped it very carefully, and stored it in a well-insulated, shock-protected styrofoam cooler.
Then there was the local elementary school that had to shut down for a day when a child dropped a mercury thermometer on the front steps while returning from an outdoor science class. You would have thought there had been a bomb blast with all the emergency vehicles and personnel.
So, the next time you need to move Aunt Sue’s antique clock, exercise caution.