Safe Handling and Disposal of Mercury

Submitted by Gretchen Carey, Bedford’s Department of Public Works   

The mercury disposal area, just inside the Great Road door at Bedford's DPW building.  Courtesy image
The mercury disposal area, just inside the Great Road door at Bedford’s DPW building. Courtesy image

Mercury is toxic to humans and animals. It should not be touched or inhaled. It has damaging effects on the lungs, kidneys and brain. There are several items in the average home that contain mercury:  thermometers, thermostats, and fluorescent light bulbs. While the older thermometers and thermostats are being replaced daily, more people are switching to these fluorescent bulbs because of their excellent energy and money saving qualities. It is important that everyone knows how to dispose of them safely.

Fluorescent bulbs can break and emit mercury vapor. The DPW would like to encourage all residents to collect and carefully transport their fluorescent bulbs of all shapes and sizes to the DPW building at 314 Great Road, where there is a collection area on the first floor.  There is a specific place for long fluorescent tubes, Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL= “curly bulbs”), and liquid mercury items.  An excellent list of other items containing mercury can be found here:

Liquid mercury is found in old-style thermometers and older thermostats. It is best to replace these items with modern ones, before there is an accident. These items can also be brought to the DPW.

Cleaning up a mercury spill

Do not touch the mercury with your bare hands, as it can be absorbed by the skin.  Wear gloves. You should scoop up the mercury drops with a dustpan and brush, or piece of paper, and put them into a plastic container.    If the spill occurs on hard flooring, press duct tape around the area to pick up the very small balls of mercury.

If the spill lands on a carpet or fabric, that area must be disposed of with the other mercury waste for everyone’s safety. Keep pets and children out of the area, and close off doors to that room, while opening the windows. This will ventilate the contaminated area while keeping the mercury vapor out of other rooms. Ventilate the area for 15 minutes.

Bring the container and all contaminated materials in to the collection area, where you will find a screw-top bucket that can safely hold them until it is disposed of properly by the DPW.

Handling mercury safely is a public concern

We share the air we breathe, and the water we drink. We ask you to wisely dispose of your mercury items, and share this information with your friends and relatives.

The Bedford DPW has made it easy to dispose of your mercury waste in our safe recycling center.

If you have any questions, we would be happy to answer them at 781 275 7605.

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February 13, 2014 8:27 pm

the only mercury in modern households was bulbs forced on us by democrat enviro nuts!