There are many things that you can do to reduce mercury in the environment.
By recycling mercury-containing products, you help ensure that mercury is not released into the environment or a building for human exposure. Recycling opportunities for many mercury-containing products are described in the S.C. Mercury Assessment and Reduction Initiative.
Residents may call the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) Office of Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling at 1-800-768-7348 or visit DHEC's Where to Recycle Locally page. Questions from business and industry may be directed to the DHEC Center for Waste Minimization at 803-896-8986.
By purchasing mercury-free products for your home, business or organization, you can eliminate risk of human exposure and environmental contamination. A database of mercury-free alternative products is available at www.epa.gov/mercury/database.htm.
Many states have passed legislation specifically addressing mercury-containing products as described in the S.C. Mercury Assessment and Reduction Initiative. One source of model legislation language is available at www.newmoa.org/prevention/mercury/modelleg.cfm.
There may be schools in South Carolina still storing or using mercury that could potentially cause exposure to students and staff. Ask if your school is mercury-free. If your school is not mercury-free, DHEC's Office of Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling may be of assistance at 1-800-768-7348.
Dental offices can help to reduce mercury emissions to water by installing amalgam separators and following best management practices as recommended by the American Dental Association. The S.C. Dental Association and DHEC have partnered to encourage installation of amalgam separators. This partnership, which started in the spring of 2010, recognizes the leadership of specific dental offices that have voluntarily installed amalgam separators as a way to improve the environment. For a list of these dental offices, visit the S.C. Dental Association website.
Success Story: DHEC and S.C. Dental Association Partner to Reduce Mercury in the Environment
Hospitals or other health care facilities may contain mercury in their equipment, such as blood pressure cuffs and thermometer, and in their laboratories. Some facilities have demonstrated leadership in this area by becoming mercury-free. Ask if your health care facility is mercury-free and support mercury-free facilities when possible.
Product stewardship is the belief that the responsibility for reducing product impacts is shared between product manufacturers, retailers, government and consumers. Product stewardship principles usually encourage manufacturers to take increasing responsibility to reduce the entire life-cycle impacts of a product and its packaging. For products with toxic components, this often includes a collection infrastructure for the products at the end of their life coupled with education and outreach about proper management of these products. Many of the businesses in the Mercury Reduction, Mercury-containing Products section of the S.C. Mercury Assessment and Reduction Initiative have shown leadership in product stewardship. By supporting these businesses, you show support for decreased product toxicity and safe mercury-containing product management.
Businesses that support the ELVS program (product stewardship for vehicle mercury switches) may be found at www.elvsolutions.org/index.htm.
Businesses that support the TRC program (product stewardship for mercury thermostats) may be found at www.nema.org/gov/ehs/trc/.
Talk to your physician if you are concerned about personal mercury-related health impacts. You may also wish to talk with your physician about any mercury-related health concerns if you are pregnant or may become pregnant. Your physician will help you decide if mercury testing is appropriate given your condition and symptoms. DHEC offers analytical services through your physician's office for mercury blood levels. DHEC charges a nominal fee for this service that covers expenses.
Your physician's office may contact Earleen Wilson in DHEC's Bureau of Laboratories at (803) 896-0966 to obtain access to DHEC's mercury analysis service. Your physician will then be able to collect a blood sample from you and explain the results of the test when completed by DHEC. Currently, the DHEC charge to a physician's office is about $20 and analysis takes a few days. Cost and analytical schedules may vary; so, your physician's office may need to check with DHEC for current costs and schedules.
DHEC works through a physician's office to provide mercury analytical services because health professionals are best suited to understand your particular health condition and interpret results accordingly. These health professionals are also qualified to take a sample and ensure its quality so that test results are meaningful.