Water Quality District - Hazardous Waste
What Is The Difference Between Mercury and Digital Thermostats?
Digital thermostats have digital read-out and temperature setting; they are usually rectangular (although not always) and are not hazardous; mercury thermostats are usually round (although not always), and have a manual, non-digital dial for setting and reading temperature. They contain a significant quantity of metallic mercury, a silver liquid, which is highly toxic.
What Makes a Mercury Thermostat 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 thermostats with digital models; these have the added benefit of being programmable so that you can set the thermostat to different temperatures at different times (for example setting the temperature lower at night, or while you are at work, then automatically raising the temperature before you wake up or come home from work). This saves energy and makes your home more comfortable!
- If you have any health concerns about exposure to spilled mercury, call your physician or the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services at (406-444-4473).
- Missoula's Ace Hardware stores accept mercury thermostats for recycling.
- Broken thermostats 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 thermostat containing mercury, or any other mercury containing product in the trash. Bring these items to an approved site that can dispose of them properly.
- If you break or spill mercury from a product in your home, the EPA has adopted guidelines for cleanup. Visit the EPA web page.
- 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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