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Mercury in Products
Mercury may enter the environment during the life cycle of a range of consumer, medical and industrial products. The largest use of mercury is in electrical products such as fluorescent lamps, thermometers, thermostats and electrical switches. These products are found in residences, office, commercial and industrial buildings and cars. Other mercury-containing products containing mercury include pressure sensing devices, blood pressure reading devices, thermometers and dental amalgams.
The following list itemizes additional products that have been known to contain mercury. Although most of these products are no longer manufactured with mercury, older items containing mercury may still be in circulation. Cumulatively, these products may represent a significant reservoir of the toxin that can potentially enter the environment.
- Barometers and Manometers
- Dyes and Pigments
- Fungicides for Seed and Turf
- Human and Animal Vaccines
- Lighted Athletic Shoes
- Old Latex and Oil-based Paints
- Old Toys and Chemistry Sets
- Pharmaceuticals and Cosmetics
- Pottery and Arts
- Scientific Apparatus
- Tilt Witches
- Vacuum Gauges
Mercury can become a part of the global mercury cycle when mercury-containing products are broken and the spilled mercury poured down the drain, or when these products are disposed of in landfill sites. Mercury releases from products, as they break down in both active and closed landfills, may represent a significant pathway for the transport and eventual deposition of the toxin in various terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. In general, mercury may be released from municipal solid waste landfills as a trace component of landfill gas, which is generated during the decomposition of waste under anaerobic conditions, or in the liquid leachate flowing from the site.
Because the improper disposal of mercury-containing products can lead to environmental and health effects, it is important that individuals reduce their consumption of these products and dispose of them properly.