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Student group exposed to stolen toxic mercury

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CLENDENIN, W.Va. (AP) — A group of boys playing with mercury swiped from a dental office created an environmental headache after tracking it into their school, homes and church and up the steps of the public library.

Five of the 25 students who handled the poisonous substance showed high levels of exposure, but none suffered serious health risk, health officials said Wednesday.

"It was shiny and made interesting patterns when you drop it," said Dr. Kerry Gateley, director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department. "From a 10-year-old's standpoint, that is fascinating stuff."

The fourth- and fifth-graders took about 4 pounds of mercury, used in some dental fillings, from the vacant and apparently unlocked office early last week, authorities said.

They played with the toxic substance for several days, with one student reportedly trading a pair of sneakers for some.