Mercury thermometers are a great tool that help us tell temperature, but if one breaks you can’t just throw it in the garbage. Spilled mercury can be very dangerous if not handled correctly. Follow these steps to dispose of a broken mercury thermometer properly.
Step 1: Open the windows, shut the doors and leave the room for about 15 minutes. This will give the room a chance to ventilate. If the heat is on, turn it off.
Step 2: While you’re waiting for the room to air out, remove all of your jewellery. Mercury will bind to gold and silver, so you’ll want to take items made from these metals off. You will also need to remove any clothing that has come in contact with mercury beads. Change into something old that you can throw out. Take the mercury-exposed clothing and put it in a garbage bag outside.
Step 3: Grab a sealable plastic bag, a damp cloth, a marker, a piece of plastic (an old credit card will work) and a pair rubber or plastic gloves. You should also put on shoes if you’re not already wearing them.
Step 4: Put the gloves on and use the piece of plastic to collect any of the spilled mercury beads and thermometer glass. Place the beads in the plastic bag, seal it, wipe it with the damp cloth and label it “Mercury”.
Step 5: Take the bag outside. Remove your disposable clothing and put it in the garbage bag with your mercury-exposed clothes.
Step 6: Carefully remove the gloves and put them in the garbage bag with clothing. Now, you can seal the bag and change into new clothes.
Step 7: Go online and find your city’s waste management site. They will have instructions on where to drop off mercury beads and items that have come into contact with mercury. Drop the bags off immediately. If the mercury spill occurs at a time when the waste management facilities aren’t open, leave the bags outside in a trash can covered with heavy bricks or items that will deter raccoons from getting inside.
If you experience a mercury spill, remember to avoid using vacuum cleaners and household cleaners to get rid of the beads. You should never touch mercury with your bare hands or dispose of it down the drink or drain. Do not sweep it up with a broom or brush and most importantly get children and pets out of the room as soon as the thermometer breaks.