Houston Health Department

Additional testing detects mercury inside Walmart, another business under evaluation


Dec. 16, 2019

HOUSTON - Additional testing has detected mercury inside the Walmart located at 10750 Westview Drive. The chemical was previously found outside the Walmart and two nearby businesses, a Sonic Drive-In and Shell convenience store, on Dec. 15.

New information indicates the spill could have occurred as early as Dec. 13.

The compound was found near the restrooms and the McDonald’s inside the Walmart. The concentration in the McDonald’s is higher than the other areas of Walmart.

A possible contamination is also being investigated at a convenience store named Bucky’s (not Buc-ee’s) located at 1212 West Sam Houston Parkway.

The Houston Health Department encourages people who visited the Walmart, Sonic, Shell or Bucky's on December 13, 14 or 15 to monitor for symptoms over the next few days and go to their family doctor if necessary. Pregnant women who visited these locations should be especially mindful as a fetus is more sensitive to mercury than an adult.

Symptoms of acute mercury exposure can include headaches, eye and throat irritation, coughing and nausea.

“Even with mercury detected inside the Walmart, the threat to the general public remains minimal,” said Dr. David Persse, local health authority for the Houston Health Department. “With mercury, the biggest concern is long-term exposure, which is not the case in this situation."

People who were at the locations and are concerned about their shoes can place them outdoors to help potential mercury evaporate, wash the shoes twice in a washing machine or simply throw them away.

On Sunday, the Houston Fire Department Hazardous Materials Response Team responded to the scene and monitored the area for mercury contamination. Approximately 60 people were found to have trace amount of mercury contamination near their feet. Although the level of chemical detected on those exposed was below the level that’s dangerous to the average individual, each was decontaminated at the scene as a precaution.

One pregnant woman was transported to a hospital as a precaution and 12 people were evaluated on the scene and released.

All affected businesses remain closed as cleanup continues.

The criminal investigation is being handled by the FBI Houston Division.