Mercury is used in many products and applications. The Washington State Mercury Chemical Action Plan describes all sources of mercury in Washington, including products.
A 'Mercury-Added Products' database is maintained by the Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association, and a comprehensive description of products containing mercury has been compiled by Environment Canada.
Because mercury is toxic to wildlife and humans, it is not legal to put items that contain mercury into the garbage or down the drain in King County.
Products with mercury must be recycled or properly disposed. Households can bring these products to household hazardous waste facilities. Businesses can dispose of mercury through a mercury reclamation facility or a hazardous waste management company. In addition, special recycling options are available for many products.
Appliances and 'white goods' like chest freezers, washing machines, gas ranges and gas hot water heaters contain mercury switches. The Household Appliance Mercury Switch Removal Manual (Vermont Mercury Education and Reduction Campaign, 2002. PDF, 1.3 MB) shows where these switches are located and how to remove them.
Batteries can contain toxic metals such as mercury, cadmium, lead and nickel. The Mercury-containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act (PDF)(U.S. E.P.A.) passed in 1996 provides for the recycling of mercury batteries.
Car switches that control hood and trunk lights in some vehicles contain mercury. Switches in some ABS systems also contain mercury, as do some car alarms.
Dental amalgam, the silvery material used to fill teeth, is approximately 50 percent mercury.
Fluorescent lamps, including compact fluorescent lamps, tubes, high intensity discharge lamps and tanning lamps, contain mercury and must be recycled.
Jewelry can sometimes contain mercury, as described in "Health Concerns About Mercury in Necklaces" (Washington State Department of Health).
Medical equipment like sphygmomanometers (blood pressure measuring devices), esophageal dilators and fever thermometers can contain mercury.
Medicine and pharmaceuticals. "Mercury in Drug and Biologic Products" (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) lists pharmaceuticals and medicines that contain mercury.
Laboratory compounds. "Removing mercury from hospital labs" (Sustainable Hospitals) discusses how mercury serves as a preservative or is present as a contaminant in many laboratory compounds.
Personal care products. "Cosmetics and personal care products: Avoiding Bodily Harm" (Washington Toxics Coalition, 2006) discusses these products. Avoid skin products marketed as skin lighteners and anti-aging treatments that contain mercury. The Food and Drug Administration is asking anyone who suspects a skin product they have been using is contaminated with mercury to stop using it immediately and consult their doctor.
Religious and cultural uses. "The Use of Mercury for Cultural and Religious Purposes" (PDF) (National Association of County and City Health Officials. PDF, 300 KB) discusses the cultural and ritual significance of mercury and its use by various social groups.
Thermometers used to measure body temperature sometimes contain mercury.
Thermostats used to regulate heating and cooling systems in homes and commercial buildings sometimes contain mercury.
Toys, novelty items and shoes. 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). Some toys (like Spiderman) were powered with non-removable mercury batteries. Some older athletic shoes with flashing lights in the soles contain mercury. Newer shoes are mercury-free.
For more information contact Taylor Watson, Health and Environmental Investigator, at email@example.com.