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Missoula Valley Water Quality District
(406) 258-4890
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Missoula Valley Water Quality District

Department: Water Quality District
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Water Quality District - Hazardous Waste

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What Is The Difference Between a Mercury and Alcohol Thermometer?

An alcohol thermometer contains a red liquid, commonly seen in outdoor thermometers, and is not hazardous, while a mercury thermometer contains a silver liquid, metallic mercury, which is highly toxic.

What Makes a Mercury Thermometer Hazardous?

Mercury is toxic to many organ systems, including the central nervous system. It can damage the brain, spinal cord, kidneys, and liver. Children and fetuses are at highest risk if exposed to mercury. Mercury can enter the body through inhalation of mercury vapors or through the pores of skin. Mercury vapor is odorless, colorless, and very toxic when inhaled. Even though liquid mercury evaporates slowly indoors, dangerous amounts of mercury vapor can build up after a spill.

Spilled Mercury In Your Home?

See mercury section for more information.

Consumer Tips

Disposal Options



The Residential Disposal Guide is provided by the Missoula Valley Water Quality District as a public service and is not an endorsement of specific businesses, services or products. Any omissions or inaccuracies are unintentional. Please contact us with corrections or additions. Call businesses or agencies to confirm hours, locations and charges for services, if any. For information on disposal of items not listed, email or call the Water Quality District at 406-258-4890, M - F, 8 am to 5 pm.

Much of the information provided is from the Washington County, MN, Dept. of Public Health and Environment website.

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