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Mercury is toxic and should not be thrown out in the trash. This element
is a silvery metal liquid that is commonly used in thermometers and
thermostats. Mercury is not hazardous to humans when it is in a sealed
device. The danger to health and the environment arises when
mercury-containing articles are broken and discarded in the trash. Mercury
produces an odorless gas when exposed to the air. Breathing that gas may be
harmful. Mercury can cause neurological damage and is harmful to the kidneys
and liver. The airborne mercury is deposited on lakes and streams with rain
and snow. Fish eat smaller organisms that eat the mercury and it ultimately
builds up in the fish. The mercury is then transferred to humans that eat
the contaminated fish. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of
Public Health has issued a fish consumption advisory for many rivers and
lakes throughout the state. For more on fish advisories for this region of
the state, please go to
Mercury Thermometer Exchange Program
Mercury thermometers are still commonly found in many medicine cabinets. If
a mercury thermometer breaks, it can threaten our health and the
environment. For example, the mercury from one fever thermometer can
contaminate all of the fish in a 20-acre lake. When a mercury thermometer is
broken, the mercury forms a vapor that is easily inhaled. Symptoms of acute
exposure to mercury can include numbness around the mouth, tunnel vision,
and tingling toes and fingers. Prolonged, high level exposure can cause
neurological and kidney damage, vision problems, and behavioral
abnormalities.* These dangers are increased for younger children and
Exposure to mercury vapor from broken thermometers is preventable by using a
safe alternative, such as a digital thermometer. The Cooperative will exchange
your mercury fever thermometer for a safer digital one for free at most
Hazardous Waste Collections. Simply bring the mercury thermometer in its
original case or in a sealed plastic bag to the next collection and receive a
new digital thermometer in return. Supplies are limited, so we must limit the exchange
to one per household. Please look under "Hazardous Waste Collection" button on the left.
The Groton Transfer Station is also conducting an exchange program for Groton residents.
Please contact the Groton Board of Health at 448-1120 for details.
*Source: US Food and Drug Administration, January 2001
The most common items found in a home that may contain mercury are:
For information more about devices that contain mercury, see:
Mercury Spill Information
If you accidentally spill mercury there are certain
things you must do to protect yourself and others:
Ventilate the area. Open a window or outside door.
Evacuate the spill area for 10 minutes.
Do NOT use a vacuum or broom to
clean up the spill. Use two index cards or other stiff paper to push the
mercury together into a ball.
Carefully, scoop up the mercury onto one
of the index cards or paper. Put it all, including the index
cards/paper, into a plastic bag and seal. If possible, place the sealed
plastic bag into a glass or plastic jar with a screw-on lid.
District for directions on where and when to dispose of the mercury.
Mercury Disposal Information
Residents are encouraged to bring any articles that
contain mercury to one of the Hazardous Waste collections; click
here for more information.
Items such as fluorescent light bulbs, mercury fever thermometers and
thermostats can be dropped off at the special collections and will be
properly shipped and recycled.
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