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Dane County Department of Waste & Renewables

Mercury Disposal

Elemental mercury and the mercury from mercury containing devices that are brought to Clean Sweep is recovered and recycled. Most importantly, the mercury is not released into the environment. This page offers tips on handling mercury in a safe way.

Thermometers & Mercury-Containing Devices

If your thermometer is not digital and has a silver liquid metal in it (most commonly found in a bulb at the end of the device), it probably contains mercury. Alcohol-based thermometers usually contain a red or blue liquid, but they too can have a silver bulb on them. If you think you have a mercury-containing thermometer, bring it to Clean Sweep when you are ready to dispose of it.

In addition to thermometers, we also accept other types of mercury-containing devices, including sphygmomanometers, thermostats, mercury switches, arc lamps, manometers, barometers and button batteries, all of which may contain mercury.

Dentists: Got Amalgam?

Clean Sweep now accepts elemental mercury, non-contact amalgam, contact amalgam, amalgam traps and filters, x-ray fixer, x-ray lead foils, x-ray film, lead aprons, and used mercury devices from your office. Please visit our Small Business page for information on setting up an appointment.

How to Handle a Mercury Spill

When liquid (elemental) mercury is spilled, it forms beads or droplets that can accumulate in the tiniest places. These droplets emit vapors into the air that we cannot see or smell. Breathing mercury vapors can be very dangerous, depending on how much mercury is in the air and how long you breathe the contaminated air. Small children and pregnant women are at highest risk for mercury poisoning, but it can impact anyone.

Amount of elemental mercury in common devices:

  • Fluorescent Light Bulb: 10 - 40 milligrams of mercury (.01 - .04 grams of mercury)
  • Fever Thermometer: .5 - .7 grams of mercury
  • Thermostat: Approximately 3 grams of mercury
  • Sphygmomanometer (blood pressure measuring device): Hundreds of grams of mercury

The small amount of elemental mercury in fever thermometers and thermostats is not likely to cause serious health problems if it is immediately cleaned up. The mercury in a broken fluorescent light bulb is not readily visible, but broken bulbs should also be cleaned up immediately. Most small mercury spills (fever thermometers) can be cleaned up easily with these tips  for cleaning up a small mercury spill. Anything that has touched mercury, including all clean up materials, should be taken to the Dane County Clean Sweep facility for proper disposal.