What You Should Know About Mercury Thermometers The small silvery ball in a mercury thermometer can be dangerous if the glass breaks and the mercury is not cleaned up properly. The mercury will evaporate and can contaminate the surrounding air and become toxic to humans and wildlife.
Each thermometer contains about .5-1.5 grams of mercury. One gram of mercury can contaminate a 20 acre lake, enough to cause a public advisory to be issued on the potential dangers of eating fish caught in that lake.
To prevent possible contamination, stop using your mercury thermometer. Get a new, safer type of thermometer and contact your local recycling center to find out how to dispose of your old mercury thermometer safely.
There are several alternatives to mercury thermometers:
glass gallium-tin thermometers
glass alcohol thermometers
These non-mercury fever thermometers are just as good as mercury thermometers and much safer.
Dangers of Mercury
Mercury is a very dense element that is the only metal to exist as a liquid at room temperature. It has a high electrical conductivity and it expands and contracts evenly with changes in temperature.
Mercury is toxic to living organisms, including you and your family. When mercury is released, it turns into a vapor in the air and eventually comes back to the earth. It often will accumulate in rivers and contaminate fish, leading to higher risk of exposure to mercury for people who eat fish.
Mercury poses a particular threat to:
Pregnant women - Mercury can be passed on to the baby through the placenta or when breastfeeding. It can affect the developing fetus by stopping the brain and nervous system from properly functioning.
Young Children - Children affected by mercury show lowered intelligence, impaired hearing and poor coordination. Long term exposure causes symptoms to increase and to worsen, possibly resulting in personality changes and even coma.