Division of Environmental Quality
Mercury in Your Homes and Businesses
Because mercury is an excellent conductor of electricity and flows as a liquid, it has been used in a variety of switches in items such as thermostats, household appliances, automobiles and industrial equipment. Mercury has been used in thermometers, barometers and other measuring devices because it responds uniformly with changes in temperature and pressure. Mercury has the ability to form alloys with other metals which makes it a practical material for creating dental amalgams, mirrors, toys and batteries. As a gas, mercury can be charged with electricity to emit light, making it useful in fluorescent, neon and mercury vapor lights. The toxicity of mercury made mercury compounds useful as fungicides in paint and seed coatings, and for use in a number of personal care products including contact solution, antibacterial medicines such as mercurochrome and nasal sprays. Many of these applications for mercury are being eliminated due to health and environmental concerns.
What You Can Do To Reduce Mercury
- Become an informed consumer and buy mercury-free alternatives.
- Request mercury-free dental amalgam.
- Replace mercury-containing products with mercury-free alternatives
- Recycle mercury. Check to see if there is a Household Hazardous Waste collection in your area.
- Reduce energy consumption (to help reduce consumption of coal at power plants).
- Support mercury reduction legislation.
Natural sources of mercury releases to the environment include volcanic eruptions and forest fires. In addition to natural sources, there have been decades of mercury releases from the burning of coal, the production of paper and chlorine, waste incineration and other industrial processes.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Mercury and Air Toxics Rule (MATS)
- American Dental Association - The American Dental Association has information about best management practices and the use of mercury in dental offices.
Fluorescent and Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
The department has several fact sheets and information available regarding fluorescent and compact fluorescent bulbs.
Household Hazardous Waste
Mercury is a hazardous waste and should recycled or disposed of properly. The department has information about household hazardous waste collection facilities and links to additional resources.
Salvage Yard Businesses
- Preventing Pollution During Vehicle Salvage Fact Sheet
- Preventing Pollution in Collision Repair Fact Sheet
- Preventing Pollution in the Vehicle Maintenance Industry Fact Sheet