All fluorescent light tubes including compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) contain a small amount of mercury to properly function. As long as the bulb stays intact, no mercury is released to your home during use. Other types of light bulbs that contain mercury that you may use in or around your home include tanning lamps and High Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps including mercury vapor, metal halide, and sodium. Crushing or breaking fluorescent lights, CFLs or other types of mercury-containing bulbs allows the mercury vapor and mercury-containing phosphor powder to be released to the immediate environment.
All types of fluorescent lights, CFLs, and HIDs do NOT belong in the trash and are accepted at any mobile collection site and the Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Facility at the Ada County Landfill.
The most common mercury-containing thermometer found in a household is an oral fever thermometer. Thermometers that contain mercury have a silver-white liquid in the reservoir bulb. If you have a mercury fever thermometer, you can exchange it at any mobile collection site or the Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Facility at the Ada County Landfill for a free, digital thermometer.
New fever thermometers contain gallium, indium, and tin which also appear as a silver liquid in the reservoir bulb. These new fever thermometers are clearly marked as “mercury-free” on the packaging. Thermometers may have liquid in the reservoir that has color other than silver (i.e., red, blue, purple, etc…). These thermometers do not contain mercury. If you break a mercury thermometer, follow EPA guidelines for safe clean up.
Older manual thermostats (where you have to turn the dial up and down to set the desired temperature) usually contain one or more mercury switches – glass ampoules of elemental mercury. Carefully remove the thermostat cover. If you see a glass bulb (ampoule) with a sliverywhite liquid, your thermostat contains mercury. Mercury-containing thermostats do NOT belong in the trash and are accepted at any mobile collection site or the Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Facility at the Ada County Landfill. Some heating and cooling companies also accept intact mercury-containing thermostats for recycling. If you have a contractor replace your thermostat, make sure that they are recycling the thermostat. Mercury-containing thermostats NEVER belong in the trash.
If you break a mercury-ampoule (2.8 grams) from your thermostat, turn off your ventilation system; keep all family and pets from tracking through spill area; open a window in the room where spill occurred; exit room and close the door (if possible); and call 911 for assistance.
You should never try to clean up more than a mercury thermometer’s worth (.5 grams) of mercury on your own.
Most batteries manufactured in the United States today do not contain added mercury. However, button cell, lithium, zinc air, silver oxide, and legacy (i.e. 10+ years old) alkaline batteries contain mercury. All of these batteries are accepted at any mobile collection site or the Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Facility at the Ada County Landfill. New alkaline batteries (A’s, C’s, D’s) do not contain mercury and can be placed in the trash.
Legacy products found in homes that can contain elemental mercury include antique barometers, clocks, and mirrors as well as jewelry, usually necklaces from Mexico.More information on legacy products can be found on the N.E.Waste Management Officials Association Mercury Legacy Products website. All legacy items are accepted at any mobile collection site or the Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Facility at the Ada County Landfill.
Mercury Tilt Switches
Many old appliances and other household products can contain mercury-tilt switches. Appliances collected through the city of Boise’s Curbit large item collection program or processed through most local metals recyclers are decommissioned prior to shredding including removal of any mercury switches.