Safe Handling and Disposal of Mercury
There are a few items in the average home that contain mercury: thermometers, thermostats, and fluorescent light bulbs. While the older thermometers and thermostats are being replaced daily, more people are switching to these fluorescent bulbs because of their excellent energy and money saving qualities. It is important that everyone knows how to dispose of them safely.
Mercury is a heavy metal, and toxic to humans and animals. It should not be touched or inhaled. It has damaging effects on the lungs, kidneys and brain.
Want to know more about mercury? Watch this video!
Fluorescent bulbs are common, but when they break mercury vapor is emitted, and can be inhaled by anyone in the area. The DPW would like to encourage all residents to collect and carefully transport their fluorescent bulbs of all shapes and sizes to the DPW building at 314 Great Road, where there is a collection area on the first floor. There is a specific place for long fluorescent tubes, Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL), which are commonly referred to as “curly bulbs” and elemental mercury. (An excellent list of other items containing mercury can be found here: http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/ehhm/mercury.html)
Elemental mercury is in liquid form, and found in old-style thermometers and older thermostats. It is best to replace these items with modern ones, before there is an accident. However, if any of these items were to break in your home, you should take precautions and clean it up immediately:
- Do not touch the mercury with your bare hands, as it can be absorbed by the skin.
- Wear gloves. You should scoop up the mercury drops with a dustpan and brush, or piece of paper, and put them into a plastic container.
- If the spill occurs on hard flooring, press duct tape around the area to pick up very small balls of mercury.
- If it happens on a carpet or fabric, that area must be disposed of with the other mercury waste for everyone’s safety. Keep pets and children out of the area, and close off doors to that room, while opening the windows. This will ventilate the contaminated area while keeping the mercury vapor out of other rooms.
- Bring the container and all contaminated materials in to the collection area, where you will find a screw-top bucket that can safely hold them until it is disposed of properly by the DPW.
Handling mercury safely is a public concern: we share the air we breathe, and the water we drink. We ask you to wisely dispose of your mercury items, and share this information with your friends and relatives. We have made it easy- bring your mercury waste to the DPW! If you have any questions, we would be happy to answer them at 781 275 7605.