Mercury

Mercury can be found in a variety of household, commercial and industrial items such as fever thermometers, thermostats, and irons. Also, some people keep liquid (elemental) mercury in bottles and other containers.

See www.in.gov/idem/mercury for more information on mercury containing items. Mercury is toxic to humans and wildlife and should be managed properly.

When liquid (elemental) mercury is spilled, it forms beads or droplets that can accumulate in the tiniest places. These droplets can emit vapors into the air that we cannot see or smell. Breathing mercury vapors can be very dangerous, depending on how much mercury is in the air and how long you breathe the contaminated air. Entire families have been poisoned from mercury spills. Small children and pregnant women are at highest risk for mercury poisoning, but mercury poisoning can impact anyone. For cleanup information give us a call.

Amount of elemental mercury in various items:

  • Fluorescent light bulb – 10-40 milligrams of mercury (.01 - .04 grams of mercury)
  • Fever thermometer - .5 - .7 grams of mercury
  • Thermostat – approximately 3 grams of mercury
  • Sphygmomanometer (blood pressure measuring device) – hundreds of grams of mercury

The small amount of elemental mercury in fever thermometers and thermostats is not likely to cause serious health problems if it is immediately cleaned up. The mercury in a broken fluorescent light bulb is not readily visible, but broken bulbs should also be cleaned up immediately.

The list below represents some of the major consumer items found to contain mercury.

  • Batteries
  • Mercury-zinc (button) batteries
  • Mercury-cadmium batteries
  • Mercury alkaline batteries
  • Mercury oxide batteries
  • Some alkaline batteries not labeled as 99 percent mercury-free
  • Light Bulbs
  • CFL-Compact Fluorescent
  • HID headlamps
  • High-pressure sodium
  • Fluorescent
  • Mercury arc
  • Mercury vapor lamps
  • Metal halide
  • Ultraviolet disinfection
  • Thermostats, Barometers, Tilt switches, Float switches
  • Necklaces and other Jewelry
  • Mercury Blood Pressure Gauges
  • Vintage “maze” toys and chemistry sets
  • Antiseptic products that contain thermosal or merbromin
  • Tincture of Merthiolate and/or Mercurochrome skin antiseptic®
  • Pilot light sensors
  • Manometers containing mercury were, and still are, used in dairy operations
  • Agricultural chemicals such as fungicide, mildewcide and pesticide
  • Latex paint manufactured before 1990 and some oil-based paint
  • Thermometers with silver bulbs
  • Shoes made before 1977 with flashing lights in the soles
  • Clothing irons and curling irons with automatic shutoff switches
  • Electric heaters with auto shutoff if knocked over
  • Silent wall switches

When you no longer need mercury-containing products, make sure to follow proper disposal practices to ensure no mercury contamination can occur.

Anything that has come in contact with mercury, including all clean up materials must be taken to a recycling facility or household hazardous waste facility. If you do not know where your local facility is, call IDEM at (800) 988-7901 during normal business hours or go to IDEM’s web site for an up-to-date listing of all solid waste management districts at www.in.gov/idem/oppta/recycling/swmd/. In the phone book, your solid waste management district will probably be listed with county government offices.

Never break open any items containing mercury.

Never put mercury in the trash.

Never pour mercury down the drain.

Never burn mercury.

Never use an ordinary vacuum or shop vacuum to clean up mercury.

Never allow people whose shoes or clothing may be contaminated with mercury to walk around your house.

If you have questions about Mercury or mercury products give us a call, 812-988-0140.