A laboratory at the University of Manchester suffered an unexpected closure this week when they discovered the dangerous metal mercury, under the floorboards. The deposit had been stowed away nearly 100 years by the eminent scientist Ernest Rutherford.
There are concerns for the health of the staff that work there, the four employees there have been temporarily relocated and medically checked out. There are even concerns that the deaths of former university staff who worked in those rooms may have been caused by the materials Rutherford left there.
It was the office in which psychologist Dr Hugh Wagner worked for 20 years. Wagner died in 2007 of pancreatic cancer, aged 62, soon after taking early retirement from the university. A paper written by three academics who occupied rooms in the building suggests that his early death may have been related to contamination from radioactive material and mercury left over from Rutherford’s time there. The paper also argues that in the past the university had been aware of a possible problem but did not inform staff.