As a college or university employee, you likely come across mercury-containing items often and don’t even know it. When products containing mercury are thrown carelessly into the trash, outdoors or down drains, that mercury has the potential to pollute the environment and contaminate fish. Minimizing your use of mercury-containing items is your best way to reduce your exposure to it--and its potential risk. Some of these items you probably already know about: thermometers, thermostats, fluorescent light bulbs, cylindrical batteries made before 1990 and button batteries (like the ones you have in your calculator or watch). But you may not know that some topical disinfectants, detergents and contact lens solutions also contain mercury. Choose alternatives, such as digital thermometers and mercury-free thermostats.
When you need to dispose of a mercury-containing item, don’t put it in your trash or recycling container; contact your EH&S staff to determine its proper handling. And if you break or spill an item that contains mercury, take immediate safety precautions. First, do not touch, sweep up or vacuum the substance. Contain the spill, and clean it according to the cleanup procedures you’ll find as you proceed through this section of the virtual tour.