Mercury is a neurotoxin that accumulates in the food chain and can damage the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver. It has been linked to attention deficit disorder in children, and is particularly hazardous to developing fetuses and young children. Poison control centers and emergency rooms took 18,000 calls in 1998 because of broken mercury fever thermometers.
Fish consumption advisories exist in 40 states due to mercury contamination. Broken thermometers, which each contain one-half gram of the substance, are a big source of the pollution. That half gram is sufficient to spoil the water in 200Olympic-sized pools, or 5 million gallons. There are better alternatives to poisonous mercury thermometers, such as digital and glass with alcohol or galinstan.
Mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants lead to contamination of our nation’s waterways. Fish eating advisories are in place in many states that recommended a limited consumption of fish from certain waterways. New technologies are making mercury emissions control more economical.
Several agencies and local governments have taken steps to phase out mercury thermometers. In 1998, the American Hospital Association signed an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency promising to phase out the use of mercury thermometers among its members.
- Mercury Policy Project
- Listing of Mercury-related State Laws, Local Ordinances and Resolutions in Effect – tracking from Health Care Without Harm
- Global Mercury Assessment Home – United Nations Programme
- Mercury Exposure: The World’s Toxic Time Bomb – Ban Mercury Working Group (Ban Hg-Wg), January 2003