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Durham Church Parishoners Show Signs Of Mercury Poisioning

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DURHAM, N.C. — Nine parishioners from a predominantly Hispanic church in Durham are showing signs of mercury poisoning, health officials said on Saturday.

About 80 members of Iglesia de Restauracion near downtown Durham were interviewed and screen by Durham County health officials and the U.S. Environmental Protection. Three of the nine showing symptoms were advised to be evaluated by their medical provider.

In addition, authorities also identified eight additional addresses for potential exposure to the liquid metal.

Last week, the church, as well as Oak Grove Elementary School in Durham were closed after a reported spill of the element.

Authorities said Carlos Guerra, 21, gave the mercury to four children at the church on May 19 after he had allegedly stolen it from a Garner job site where he was working as an air-conditioning technician.

At least 15 students from the school have also shown symptoms of mercury poisoning, authorities said, but many were beginning to show signs of improvement.

Guerra, who was charged with misdemeanor larceny, probably did not know the dangers associated with mercury, investigators said.

Teams with the EPA, as well as local health officials are in the process of decontaminating all the places that show high levels of mercury, including the elementary school, church and two residences.

Oak Grove, however, remains closed. A decision on when the school will reopen could come on Tuesday.