Student brings mystery substance to school

A vial of powder brought to Eagle Valley Middle School by a student Friday morning caused a bit of a stir among administrators, but did not disrupt school and appears to be harmless, officials said.

Carson City School District Superintendent Mary Pierczynski said a science teacher was shown the substance by one of her students and, erring on the side of caution, reported it to authorities. The vial and bag were never opened, she said.

"This was a non-exposure incident. The child, when he brought it to school, was not threatening other kids or teasing other kids with it. He showed it to his science teacher who immediately took it," Pierczynski said.

Carson City deputies responded shortly before 8 a.m. and then called for the fire department. Battalion Chief Dan Shirey said he collected the vial and turned it over to the health department for testing.

"(The school) had a substance that they didn't know what it was. Nobody had opened it, nobody was playing with it. It was in a sealed container and it was isolated," Shirey said. "The school did everything appropriately. It was appreciated that they were as calm and collected as they were."

The initial report was that it might be mercury, Shirey said, but when he saw it, he realized that was not likely.

In its elemental form, mercury is shiny, silver and odorless. It is the only metal on earth that is liquid at room temperature.

Mercury can cause severe health problems if it evaporates into airborne vapors, which can be absorbed into the body through breathing. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, exposure to high levels of metallic mercury can damage the brain, kidneys and lungs. Prolonged exposure to lower levels can cause problems with sleep, sight, hearing and memory.

In January 2004, a mercury spill forced the evacuation of Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School in Gardnerville.

The school was closed Jan. 6 and remained so for more than a week after a student brought in a quarter-cup of mercury, contaminating the building and many of his classmates' belongings.

The Pau-Wa-Lu cleanup cost an estimated $140,000.

- Contact reporter F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment