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Mercury-Added Consumer Law and the Healthcare Industry

Mercury-Added Consumer Law and the Healthcare Industry

Information for the healthcare industry regarding the manufacture, sale, distribution and disposal of mercury-added consumer products, including fever thermometers in New York State.

picture of a thermometer

New York State Law (Chapter 145, Laws of 2004; Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) Article 27, Title 21) places restrictions on the distribution, sale and disposal of mercury and mercury-added consumer products. The purpose of the Law is to protect public health and the environment from the harmful effects of exposure to mercury. The Law restricts the sale of many consumer products containing mercury, including fever and body thermometers; prohibits the incineration of mercury-added consumer products; and restricts the disposal of mercury-added consumer products in solid waste, except by separated delivery to a permitted solid or hazardous waste facility. New York State Legislation also requires manufacturers of mercury-added consumer products to notify consumers of the product's mercury content through the use of a label on the product. Manufacturers that sell mercury-added consumer products in New York State must also notify the state that these product are sold in New York. The manufacturers must identify how much mercury these products contain.

There are restrictions on the sale or distribution of mercury fever or mercury body thermometers after January 1, 2005 (see ECL 27-2107).

After January 1, 2005, no person shall sell, offer for sale, or distribute free of charge in New York State, any mercury fever or mercury body thermometers without a physician's prescription. A manufacturer that produces or sells mercury fever or body thermometers must provide the recipient with a notice of mercury content, instructions on proper disposal, and instructions that clearly describe how to carefully handle a mercury thermometer to avoid breakage, and proper mercury cleanup should the thermometer break. This restriction does not apply to digital thermometers containing mercury-added button cell batteries.

There are prohibitions on the disposal of mercury-added consumer products after July 1, 2005.

Chapter 145 places restrictions on the disposal of mercury-added consumer products. The Law prohibits mercury-added consumer products from being disposed as normal trash, unless they are segregated and separately delivered to a permitted solid or hazardous waste treatment, storage or disposal facility. The Law further prohibits the incineration of mercury-added consumer products.

The preferred management option for mercury-added consumer products is to send these products to a facility which can reclaim the mercury from these products. Other options for businesses that generate small quantities of hazardous waste may be to manage such mercury-added consumer product waste through a local household hazardous waste program. A fee may be charged for such a service.

National and regional efforts are under way to establish long-term storage options for the management of elemental mercury and mercury containing wastes; however, those options are not fully developed or available.

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