Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health



A mercury fact sheet that contains essential information and can be clearly understood by majority of adults is needed. In Fiscal Year 2009, EPA responded to more releases related to mercury than any other release. Since 2003, EPA has responded to more than 200 mercury releases. The American Association of Poison Control Centers estimate more than 50,000 people have been exposed to mercury vapors from 2003 to 2008, and 19,000 mercury cleanups have occurred from 2006 to 2008.


To determine what information needs to be included in a mercury fact sheet and how it should be created to inform adults who may be important in preventing and limiting exposure during accidental mercury release in the United States.


The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Formula Data and the Suitability Assessment of Materials (SAM) tool were used to determine readability and appropriateness of twelve fact sheets related to elemental mercury. Length of fact sheets and illustration coverage percentage were also assessed. In addition, surveys were performed with four people who were involved in response to mercury releases in 2007 to 2009. The information they provided was also summarized to determine important elements that should be included in the fact sheets.


Information in a fact sheet should include the background of mercury, procedures in the event of a release, and ways to prevent releases. Based on the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, the literacy levels required to comprehend the 12 facts sheets was 11.4 on average. The majority of adults cannot comprehend the twelve fact sheets evaluated. Based on the evaluation of the material using SAM, none of the fact sheets scored higher than adequate with SAM. Only two fact sheets were written on one page and none of the fact sheets used relevant, simple illustrations with captions.


An effective mercury fact sheet needs to be about one page long and focuses on background, procedures, and prevention of exposure during a mercury release. Information obtained from interviews found that people focused the majority of their attention on the first page only. The fact sheet needs to be written at a sixth grade reading and to be able to receive a superior rating when assessed with SAM. This will ensure that the fact sheet is readable and comprehendible by the majority of adults and include the necessary information that the public must know regarding mercury. A new fact sheet was developed and assessed using both Flesch-Kincaid level and SAM and was found to have a 6.6 reading grade level and received a superior score under SAM. This fact sheet will be used by EPA along with the existing more comprehensive fact sheets at state agencies, and poison control centers for future releases and will be given to schools to educate and prevent future releases.

Included in

Public Health Commons