Mercury Thermometers & Thermostats
Mercury, which is found in some common household products, is a concern because exposure to it can be harmful to humans and animals. This shiny, silver metal was once widely used in manufacturing, agriculture and other industries. It is now considered a dangerous pollutant.
Mercury is a neurotoxin that damages or destroys nerve tissue at high concentrations. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should be especially careful to avoid exposure to mercury, and parents should ensure that young children are not exposed to it. Mercury affects all animals-humans and wildlife alike. In Minnesota, it is illegal to throw mercury thermometers or mercury thermostats in the trash because they are hazardous--never put them in your garbage whether they are intact or broken. Take mercury thermometers, thermostats and other mercury-containing items to your county's household hazardous waste drop-off site.
Broken Thermometer? Spilled Mercury?For more information, see Cleaning up spilled mercury in the home on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency web site.
Mercury in FishOnce released into our air and water, mercury can end up in the fish we eat. To learn how you can reduce your exposure to mercury (and other contaminants) when eating fish, visit the Minnesota Department of Health website.
Identifying Sources of Mercury
To identify sources of mercury, how it's released, and what we can do to help reduce risks to our health and the environment, visit the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency website.
Alternatives to Mercury Thermometers & Thermostats
Digital and alcohol thermometers and thermostats are alternatives to those that contain mercury. Dakota and Ramsey counties offer a free digital fever thermometer in exchange for a mercury thermometer. Call your county for information.
More Information on Reducing Exposure to Mercury
For more information on the risks of having mercury thermometers in your home, visit the Health Care Without Harm website.
Recycling & Disposal Information
- Identify the type of thermometer. A mercury thermometer is made of glass and contains a silver, metallic gray or black liquid.
- Transport a mercury thermometer in a rigid, sealed container like a small plastic food container to avoid breakage on the way to the collection site.
- Alcohol thermometers - those containing red liquid - are OK to throw in the garbage.