Mercury disposal request is made

December 27, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County Health Department spokesman Rod MacRae has a request: Don't toss your mercury thermometers into the garbage.

The county is asking Washington County residents to dispose of mercury-filled thermometers at Health Department offices, at 13332 Pennsylvania Ave. and 1302 Pennsylvania Ave., MacRae said.

Mercury, which is contained in some thermometers as well as in some barometers and batteries, is a silver-colored metallic element that is toxic to living organisms.


When thermometers are thrown away they may break, causing the mercury inside to enter the waste stream and potentially cause health problems, he said.

Adverse human health effects from the inhalation or absorption of mercury can include vomiting, fever and bronchitis, MacRae said.

Thermometers given to the Health Department will be disposed of safely, he said.

Washington County is one of three counties offering thermometers disposal as part of a pilot project by the Maryland Department of the Environment, MacRae said

The state of Maryland has banned the sale and distribution of mercury-containing thermometers, except by prescription, because of the chemical's potential ill effect. The ban took effect Oct. 1.

People can purchase alcohol-filled or digital thermometers, MacRae said.

While it has been known for some time that mercury thermometers are a potential health problem, governments only recently have determined ways to deal with their disposal, MacRae said.

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