Mercury in Your Home
Mercury is used in a wide variety of household
products, including paint, thermometers, thermostats,
batteries, fluorescent lamps, disinfectants, antiseptics,
diuretics and preservatives. These items release mercury
into the environment and home when broken, mishandled
or disposed. Proper care is important when dealing with
mercury-containing products. If spilled, mercury absorbs
into many household materials while slowly evaporating
into the air over time, allowing for exposure. Knowing
what products and items contain mercury and handling
them properly will limit the risk of mercury exposure.
Common products often have a simple and environmentally
friendly alternative. Some examples are listed below:
- Mercury is used in thermometers because it
expands and contracts evenly with temperature changes.
Existing mercury-containing thermometers are safely
recycled at the nearest recycling facility. Check with
your local solid waste management district for local
options. Alternatives include the electronic (digital)
or red alcohol thermometers.
Household switches (Thermostats)
- Mercury conducts electricity and is used in many household
and appliance switches. They are used in temperature-sensitive
and mechanical (tilt) switches. Many of these switches
are inside the appliance. Examples of appliances that
have mercury switches include thermostats, clothing
irons and top loading freezers and washing machines.
Some products, like thermostats are recycled through
local recycling companies and new equipment vendors.
Mechanical and electronic switches are available in
Lamps - Fluorescent, high intensity discharge (HID)
and neon lamps contain mercury, often in vaporform.
Mercury is released when bulbs are broken or incinerated.
Fluorescent lamps aregood energy savers, using up to
50 percent less electricity than incandescent lights.
This energy savings reduces mercury emissions from power
plants. Alternatives are labeled as low mercury lamps
and often can be recognized by their green endcaps.
Batteries - Before 1980, most batteries
used in homes contained mercury. Current mercury batteries
are "button" shaped and are used in hearing
aids, watches and other items requiring a small battery.
In the last decade the United States battery industry
achieved a 99 percent reduction in mercury by using
alternative materials. Silver oxide, zinc-air, and alkaline
batteries are the best alternatives for replacing batteries
produced before 1994.
- Latex paint produced before 1992 had large amounts
of mercury to prevent fungus growth. Mercury vapors
were released when paint was applied. Use latex paint
manufactured after 1992.
Old Chemistry Sets and Toys
- Children's chemistry sets were once sold with liquid
mercury. Some toys contain a drop of mercury that is
moved through a maze, called a mercury maze. Check chemistry
sets and toys to be sure they are mercury-free.Lighted
Athletic Shoes - Some athletic
shoes with flashing lights in the soles contain mercury.
Some states have banned the sale of these shoes. Newer
shoes are mercury-free.
Pesticides - Fungicides and biocides
produced before 1994 used mercury toxins to kill fungus,
weeds and other pests. Most new pesticides are mercury-free.
Clothing Irons - Some irons have
an automatic shut-off switch containing mercury. Irons
with mercury-free automatic shut-off switches are available.
Antiseptics - Mercurochrome is
a skin antiseptic used to treat cuts and abrasions.
It is not commonly used. Mercury-free alternatives include
Neosporin and Mycin. Thimerosal is used in antiseptic
creams and as preservatives in pharmaceutical solutions
including contact lens solutions. Mercury-free products
are substituted, when available. Talk to your pharmacist
Blood Pressure Gauges - Home blood pressure gauges
contain almost 1.5 pounds of mercury. An aneroid blood-ressure
unit is a mercury-free option.
- A barometer is an instrument used to measure pressure
in the atmosphere that contains liquid mercury. A Bourdon
tube gauge is an alternative to mercury-containing barometers.
Microwave Ovens - Mercury vapor
bulbs were used in older microwave ovens. However, new
models do not contain mercury.
by: Ohio Environmental Protection Agency,