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Disposal of Thermometers that Contain Mercury

ThermometerThere are various types of thermometers used for many applications. One common type is the fever thermometer. Although Utah does not have legislation banning the sale of fever thermometers, most Utah pharmacies and grocers have pledged to no longer offer mercury fever thermometers for sale in their stores. All mercury containing thermometers and manometers must not be disposed of in the regular trash.

The information provided below will:

  • Identify the types of thermometers which contain mercury,
  • Identify mercury-free alternatives if available, and
  • Provide information on proper disposal of mercury containing thermometers.

Identifying Thermometers that Contain Mercury

Many types of thermometers may contain mercury including:

  • fever and basal thermometers,
  • oven, candy and meat thermometers,
  • indoor/outdoor thermometers,
  • laboratory thermometers,
  • temperature measuring devices in industrial applications.

A mercury thermometer can be easily identified by the presence of a silver bulb. (One exception to this is the new fever thermometers containing gallium, indium and tin that also contain a silver bulb but are clearly marked “mercury-free.”) If the bulb is red, blue, purple, green or any other color, it is not a mercury thermometer.

Alternatives

There are a number of alternatives to mercury thermometers depending on the specific application including digital (note: digital thermometers contain a button cell battery which contains a small amount of mercury and should be disposed of properly), alcohol and mineral spirits (e.g. those containing red or blue liquid), and galinstan, a mixture of gallium, indium and tin that is similar to mercury in appearance (these are not yet widely available).

Disposal Information

Households

Households should dispose of mercury containing thermometers and any waste created from the cleanup of broken thermometers at local household hazardous waste collection events sponsored by their local municipality or solid waste district.

Commercial and Institutional

The following disposal options are available to commercial/institutional generators of mercury-containing thermometers:

  • Small businesses may be able to dispose of mercury-containing thermometers and other mercury-containing devices at town or solid waste district collection events.
  • Direct shipment as “Universal Waste” to a mercury recycling facility.
  • Shipment through a hazardous waste transporter to a proper destination facility.

For additional information regarding disposal of thermometers and other mercury-containing devices, see the “Waste Mercury-Added Devices:Handling and Disposal Guidelines” Fact Sheet.