Water Quality District - Hazardous Waste
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.
- Replace your mercury fever thermometers with digital or alcohol thermometers. See below for details on how you can get a free digital thermometer.
- Avoid buying products and devices that contain mercury.
- If you have any health concerns, call your physician or the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services at (406/444-4473).
- Annual Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event: Haz Waste Days in September accepts mercury thermometers.
- Bring your mercury thermometer(s) to Haz Waste Days in September and get a coupon for a free digital thermometer in exchange! Limit two free digital thermometers per household.
- Broken thermometers and related clean up supplies: Put in a heavy plastic sealed bag or glass container and label “Mercury Waste.” Bring to Haz Waste Days in September.
- Never throw a thermometer containing mercury, or any other mercury containing product in the trash. Bring these items to an approved site that can dispose of them properly.
- Alcohol or digital thermometers may be placed in your trash.
- See mercury for more information.
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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