Legacy products containing mercury

Although many prohibited products containing mercury may still be found in your home, at work or at school, they are still allowed to be used. It is important to know what they are, in order to safely handle them and dispose of them in an environmentally sound way.

Batteries, household thermometers, thermostats, switches and relays, and most medical and measuring devices containing mercury are among the products prohibited under the Product Containing Mercury Regulations that you may still use or encounter.

Batteries

Mercury-containing batteries generally consisted of the button cell type found in wrist watches, hearing aids, calculators, and various types of applications in labs, hospitals, and military and commercial facilities (NEWMOA, 2003). These batteries all have had mercury-free options available for many years. If not properly disposed of, all batteries become an environmental hazard. Rechargeable and disposable batteries are recyclable where programs exist.

Thermometers and other measuring devices

Since liquid mercury expands with temperature or pressure change, it was widely used in measuring devices in the past. Thermometers containing mercury are easily identified by the silver color of the material in the bulb. Mercury-free thermometers are either digital, infrared, or have red or blue material in the bulb. Other than thermometers, old measuring instruments such as barometers, thermometers or manometers may still contain mercury and should be handled safely.

Thermostats

Mercury-containing thermostats were used in controlling heating and cooling systems in residential and commercial settings. Carefully removing the front plate of the device and visually inspecting the uncovered components can usually identify thermostats that contain mercury. If there are glass ampoules inside that contain a silver colored liquid, it is most probably mercury. When their useful life is over, these thermostats should be disposed appropriately, as hazardous waste.

Medical devices

Medical devices containing mercury were commonly used by practitioners in the past. These include sphygmomanometers to measure blood pressure and strain gauges to measure blood flow. Today, mercury-free alternatives are available for all of them. Older models of medical devices containing mercury should be handled safely and disposed of properly.

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