Community advised on the dangers of mercury

Dear Editor:

New Jersey Poison Control Center advises the community on the disposal of mercury thermometers.

Elemental mercury is commonly found in — Household fever thermometers (thermometers which contain a blue or red liquid do not contain mercury); some thermostats; fluorescent light bulbs; some antique clock pendulums and barometers; some blood pressure devices and disc batteries.

How can elemental mercury affect me? – If a product breaks which contains mercury, the vapors from the mercury can produce a health hazard. Inhalation of mercury vapors is the main cause of elemental mercury poisoning. If you have been exposed to mercury vapors, you may notice irritation to the lungs, tightness to the chest and coughing. You may also experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and an increase in blood pressure and heart rate.

If mercury is spilled, what do I do? – Ventilate the area; quarantine the area so that mercury cannot be spread throughout the house; do not place mercury in the household trash; do not vacuum; do not sweep; do not pour mercury down the drain; do not wash mercury contaminated clothing; collect mercury with tape, a eye dropper, or stiff cardboard, place in a double plastic gag and dispose of it at a hazardous waste collection site; double bag all items used in the mercury cleanup and dispose of them at a hazardous waste collection site.

Contact NJPIES 1-800-222-1222 for further information or your municipality for the nearest hazardous waste disposal site. For immediate treatment advice, as well as for prevention information call 1-800-222-1222; trained medical professionals will provide you with the most up-to-date emergency treatment advice and will answer any drug or poison information question you may have.

Remember help is just a phone call away!

Robert Swenson, MPH, NJPIES


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