Mercury in the Home: Products That May Contain Mercury
The following list represents some of the consumer products that contain mercury:
- Batteries- Since 1994, federal law has limited the amount of mercury in button cell batteries
(used in watches, hearing aids and calculators) and has prohibited intentional addition of mercury to standard
household batteries (dry-cell sizes A, AA, C, D, etc.).
- Detergents and disinfectants - Some bleach, detergents with bleach, stain removers and soaps
also contain mercury. To be more aware, read product labels and try to purchase mercury-free alternatives.
- Fluorescent bulbs - Mercury is used in long fluorescent bulbs, compact fluorescent bulbs,
high-intensity discharge (HID) bulbs and other types of energy-efficient lighting. Some fluorescent bulb
manufacturers have introduced "green tip" bulbs. These bulbs typically contain less mercury than standard
fluorescent bulbs, but still should be recycled or disposed of properly.
- Jewelry - There are some necklaces imported from Mexico that have a glass pendant that contains
mercury. The pendants come in various shapes such as hearts, bottles, balls and chili peppers. Broken necklaces
have resulted in mercury spills at schools.
- Medicine - Mercury in the forms of phenylmercury acetate and ethylmercury has been used in
fungicides, antiseptics or disinfectants. It also has been used in a variety of products. Most of these uses
have been discontinued, but small amounts of these compounds can still be found as preservatives in some
medicines. Some consumers are concerned about the use of thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative, in
vaccines. Since 2001, with the exception of some flu vaccines, thimerosal is not used as a preservative in
routinely recommended childhood vaccines. For more information on thimerosal in vaccines, please visit the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) website. The FDA
also provides a list of mercury-containing drugs, antibiotics and vaccines as well as the types and
percentages of mercury ingredients in each of these products.
- Paint - Mercury was used as a preservative, but its use in indoor and exterior paint was
discontinued in 1991. Until recently, many water-based paints, including some interior paints, continued to use
mercury as a fungicide. Visit www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-painting.html
for more information about indoor environmental concerns during remodeling.
- Thermometers(fever, candy, deep fry, oven, indoor and outdoor) - Mercury is used in glass
thermometers because it is sensitive to changes in temperature. Thermometers are one of the largest sources of
mercury in municipal solid waste. The few drops of mercury found in a common fever thermometer can contaminate a
large number of fish. Today, consumers can purchase accurate alternatives such as digital or alcohol
- Thermostats - Thermostats contain more than five times the amount of mercury found in a typical
fever thermometer. If you replace a thermostat, recycle the old one (please see the Thermostat Recycling Web page for more information).
Mercury-free electronic or digital thermostats are available as replacements.
Other products that may contain mercury include:
- athletic shoes, toys and cards that light up
- pilot lights in gas appliances such as stoves, water heaters, furnaces and dryers
- older chemistry sets
- switches found in some fire alarms, septic tanks, car trunks and hoods, pinball machines and automatic shut-off
For more information, contact DHEC's Office of Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling at 1-800-768-7348.