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Pollution Prevention Unit Mercury Program

Because mercury is one of the most serious environmental contaminants, the Pollution Prevention Unit works to reduce uses and environmental releases of mercury.

Mercury reduction through pollution prevention

Mercury is bioaccumulative and persists in the environment. It is toxic to humans and wildlife in both organic and inorganic forms. Pollution prevention is the best way to protect the environment from mercury contamination. Pollution prevention means making changes to products or processes at the source so that less pollution is created. Preventing pollution minimizes risks to the environment and public health.

The use of mercury-containing products should be avoided wherever possible. The release of mercury to the environment can also be reduced by cleaning up spills properly, recycling mercury-containing products, and properly handling and disposing of mercury-containing equipment.

How does mercury enter the environment?

Many products such as fluorescent lamps, batteries, medical equipment, thermometers, laboratory chemicals, and thermostats contain mercury. Improperly disposing of mercury or mercury-containing products through wastewater discharges, spills, or incineration can cause it to be released to the air, water or land. Mercury is also released into the air through the combustion of fossil fuels from sources such as electric utilities.

What can you do at home to help?

  • Avoid using fever thermometers that contain mercury. Digital thermometers are a safe and effective alternative. If you have one that contains mercury, recycle it properly.
  • Programmable electronic thermostats do not contain mercury and are more energy efficient than mercury ones.
  • Bring old thermostats, silent wall switches, fluorescent light bulbs, and other mercury-containing products to a recycling program.
  • Be aware that old batteries may contain mercury. Some button batteries still do contain mercury.
  • Never throw products that contain mercury in the trash. Call your local solid waste management authorities for information on safe recycling and disposal programs in your area.

Any comments or questions?
Contact us at: 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-1750;
518-402-9469 (phone); 518-402-9168 (fax)

More about Pollution Prevention Unit Mercury Program:

  • Contact for this Page
    Division of Materials Management
    Bureau of Waste Reduction & Recycling
    9th Floor
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-7253
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