Products that contain mercury
Products that contain even a small amount of mercury may be toxic. In King County it is illegal to put mercury-containing products in the garbage or down the drain. You must take them to a recycling or hazardous waste facility.
Households can dispose of their waste mercury products at one of these disposal locations.
Businesses can dispose of mercury through a mercury reclamation facility or a hazardous waste management company.
Products with mercury
- Fluorescent light bulbs and lamps, including compact fluorescent lamps, tubes, high intensity discharge lamps and tanning lamps contain mercury and must be recycled.
- Batteries (external link) can contain toxic metals such as mercury, cadmium, lead and nickel. Please recycle your batteries at a household hazardous waste facility or at a location listed here (external link).
- Equipment in medical offices like blood pressure measuring devices (sphygmomanometers), esophageal dilators and fever thermometers may contain mercury. Dispose with a licensed hazardous waste vendor.
- Dental amalgam is approximately 50 percent mercury. In King County, all dentists must have equipment that removes mercury from their wastewater (external link) before it goes to the sanitary sewer. Dentists may also have amalgam waste.
- Thermostats used to regulate heating and cooling systems in homes and commercial buildings sometimes contain mercury.
- Thermometers used to measure body temperature sometimes contain mercury.
- Skin-lightening creams (PDF). Avoid skin lightening or anti-aging products that contain the ingredients “calomel”, “mercuric”, “mercurous” or “mercurio” or “mercury”. The Food and Drug Administration (external link) 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.
- Car switches (external link) and some anti-lock braking systems (external link) can contain mercury. The Washington State Department of Ecology's auto mercury switch removal program (external link) pays vehicle recyclers to remove and collect mercury switches.
- Jewelry can sometimes contain mercury, "Health Concerns about Mercury in Necklaces" (Washington State Department of Health).
- Appliances and 'white goods' (external link) like chest freezers, washing machines, gas ranges and gas hot water heaters contain mercury switches.
Cosmetics and personal care products: Avoiding Bodily Harm (Washington Toxics Coalition, 2006) lists products that contain mercury.
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.
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
"The Use of Mercury for Cultural and Religious Purposes") (National Association of County and City Health Officials, PDF, 300KB) discusses the cultural and ritual significance of mercury and its use by various social groups.