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Managing Mercury-Added Consumer Products in New York State

New York State bans the sale of many mercury containing products in New York State and requires new labeling and proper disposal or recycling of mercury-added consumer products was signed. The new law also prohibits primary and secondary schools from purchasing or using mercury.

Mercury-added products typically include items such as thermostats, thermometers, switches, medical or scientific instruments, electrical relays, lamps and batteries - excluding button batteries. Disposal of mercury-added products will not be allowed in the normal trash but must be managed by separate delivery to a solid waste management facility, recycling facility, authorized hazardous waste facility or at a municipally sponsored household hazardous waste collection program.

Mercury is a toxic substance that accumulates in the environment. Mercury has been found in fish at levels of concern, resulting in fish consumption advisories throughout the State. Medical research has shown that exposure to unacceptable levels of mercury can cause neurological damage.

New York State joins a growing number of other states in adopting legislation that recognizes the environmental and public health consequences associated with the mismanagement of this highly toxic substance. The new requirements for labeling and responsibly managing the waste from mercury-added consumer products are a critical first step in identifying and limiting potential exposure to mercury.

The State's law requires the following:

  • Purchase and use of elemental mercury by primary and secondary schools is prohibited after September 4, 2004.
  • Prohibits the sale of mercury containing thermometers, thermostats, flame sensors, wetted reed relays, sphygmomanometers, switches and relays.
  • Sales of mercury fever thermometers.
  • Sales of toys or novelty products containing mercury are prohibited after January 1, 2005. (A product is not a mercury-added novelty solely on the basis that it is a game with a light screen display containing mercury, or includes an easily removable battery containing mercury.)
  • A manufacturer that produces or sells mercury-added novelties shall notify retailers that sell mercury-added novelties about the product ban and inform them of how to properly dispose of the remaining inventory.
  • Sales of elemental mercury, except for specific research, dental and manufacturing uses are limited after January 1, 2005.
  • Products containing mercury must be labeled after July 12, 2005.
  • Waste products containing mercury must not be incinerated after July 12, 2005.
  • Waste products containing mercury must be managed separately from other solid waste. Fluorescent lamps from households and small businesses (100 or less employees and discarding 15 or less non-hazardous waste lamps per month) are exempt from these disposal restrictions. However, New York State's existing hazardous waste regulations still apply.
  • Effective July 12, 2005, penalties for improper disposal of mercury-added products will be: first offense violators will be provided with a warning and education material; second, third and fourth offenses would receive a $50, $75 and $100 fine respectively. Penalties for all other violations will be $100 for the first offense and $500 for subsequent violations.
  • Penalties will be deposited into the State's Environmental Protection Fund.
  • Participation of New York State in the Interstate Mercury Education & Recycling Clearinghouse (IMERC) of the Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association (NEWMOA) has been endorsed.

Additional information may be obtained by contacting the Bureau of Waste Reduction and Recycling at (518) 402-8706. Additional information about household waste disposal may be obtained by contacting the Bureau of Permitting and Planning at (518) 402-8678. For questions regarding the disposal of mercury-containing products by businesses, please contact Anthony Martin at (518) 402-9543.

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