Dangers of Mercury

Mercury, Thermostat, HVAC, California Air

Mercury and the HVAC-R industry has had a long history of working together. The reason why? Mercury is a great conductor of electricity. However, it must be disposed properly and carefully in order to protect the environment and human health.

Because mercury can be a vapor, liquid, or solid, it can become tricky to properly manage mercury. When mercury containing devices are disposed and broken or are incinerated, the liquid mercury vaporizes into the air. The airborne mercury is then deposited into lakes and steam when it rains contaminating the water and the sea life. When mercury is allowed to escape, it comes in contact with water and becomes a contaminant that is difficult and costly to remove.

Products in The HVAC-R Industry That Contains Mercury: 

  • Thermostats
  • Switches
  • Relays
  • Sensors
  • Thermometers

Why Should You Be Worried?

Although it’s a great conductor for electricity, it is toxic and can impair the way we see, hear, and function. In the environment, a percentage of mercury can be converted to methylmercury, which is a more toxic form of mercury. Mercury poisoning attacks the central nervous system in humans. Women that are pregnant and children under the age of 6 are most susceptible to mercury poisoning.

Handling a Mercury Spill or Leak

If there is a mercury spill or leak that is less than two tablespoons, you can clean it up yourself. Majority of the thermostats contain less than this amount.) You should be able to clean this up with an eyedropper or two stiff piece of paper. However, if the spill is greater than two tablespoons, you’ll need professional help. Your local fire department should be able to help.

NEVER use a vacuum cleaner or broom to clean up a spill.

NEVER pour mercury down the drain. It is heavier than water and may get trapped in the plumbing system.

NEVER wash clothing or other items that came in contact with mercury.

Call (800) 424-8802 for the National Response Center (NRC) if there is a major spill or mercury. They operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Note that because mercury is heavy, only two tablespoons of mercury weigh about one pound.


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