HighlightEPA's Mercury Web Site provides a broad range of information on actions by EPA and others, the effects of mercury on people and the environment, and how to protect you and your family.
In recent years, there has been a growing push to eliminate or decrease the use of mercury in household and commercial products. Mercury is present in many products, including fluorescent lamps, compact florescent light bulbs, button batteries, thermostats, thermometers and other medical devices, pressure gauges, switches, relays, and dental supplies. Mercury exposures to humans and the environment can occur if these products are not handled correctly, especially during disposal.
Several states have passed legislation to reduce mercury in waste, relying on approaches such as banning the sale of certain mercury-added products, requiring product labeling, and implementing collection and recycling programs for some mercury-containing products. Numerous stewardship efforts targeting a variety of mercury-containing products have been initiated by government, industry, and non-governmental organizations. Encouraging progress has been made on a number of fronts:
- Thermometers - Several states have banned the sale
of mercury thermometers, and additional states are considering similar
legislation. Additionally, several of the largest retail chains have
agreed to remove the product from their shelves.
- Thermostats - Thermostat
is an initiative coordinated by several thermostat manufacturers and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association to collect used thermostats and recover the mercury they contain. The Product Stewardship Institute also provides information about product stewardship activities related to thermostats. including a dialogue with industry, EPA and others that PSI is leading.
- Fluorescent lamps and compact fluorescent light bulbs - Since 1985, manufacturers have
reduced the average mercury content of a typical four-foot fluorescent
bulb by over 75 percent. Manufacturers are also researching mercury-free
The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) is convening a national dialogue to negotiate stewardship strategies for fluorescent lighting. The PSI site contains information on opportunities to recycle fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent lights at certain major retailers.
- Mercury-containing components in vehicles - Automakers are under increasing pressure to stop using mercury-containing components (such as switches) in new vehicles and to assist in the collection and recovery of mercury components from existing and end-of-life vehicles. The Partnership
for Mercury-Free Vehicles
developed model legislation to address this removal. In 2006, EPA announced the National Vehicle Mercury Switch Removal Program.
- Batteries - Federal and state legislation, including
the federal Mercury-Containing and
Rechargeable Battery Management Act of 1996, has prohibited or severely
restricted the sale of most types of mercury-containing batteries.
- Medical waste - EPA and the American Hospital Association have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (PDF) (4 pp, 88K, about PDF) that calls for the virtual elimination of mercury-containing hospital wastes.
Reducing Mercury Use in Healthcare: Promoting a Healthier Environment : Monroe County Department of Health with EPA funding.
Great Lakes Binational Toxics Strategy Workgroup: Developed by US EPA Region 5 and Environment Canada. Provides a framework for actions to reduce or eliminate toxic substances, including mercury, from the Great Lakes Basin.