Mercury Thermometer Exchange at EarthFest

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Mercury Thermometer Exchange at EarthFest

Posted: 04/16/2007
Exchange your old mercury thermometer for a battery operated digital thermometer at EarthFest on April 21 at the World's Fair Park from 11 am to 7 pm.

This event will offer an opportunity for citizens to replace used mercury thermometers with battery-operated digital thermometers, provided by the sponsoring organizations. The digital thermometers will be available to the public at no cost, in exchange for used mercury thermometers. Residents may bring in as many used thermometers to exchange as they wish while supplies last. Please do not bring outdoor thermometers with red liquid. They do not contain mercury, which is silver-colored. Thermometers with red liquid (colored alcohol) can be placed in your household trash.


Thermometers should be brought to a thermometer exchange or the Knoxville Household Hazardous Waste Center in their storage cases. If the case is not available or the thermometer is broken, the thermometer can be brought in a 12-ounce plastic soda bottle with a screw-cap lid.In addition to mercury thermometers from households, other types of mercury-containing waste such as old non-digital thermostats, barometers, manometers and other household mercury waste or devices can be brought to the Knoxville Household Hazardous Waste Center, where they will be accepted for disposal during business hours. The Household Hazardous Waste Center is free to residents of Knox County and City of Knoxville residents only and is located at 1033 Elm Street. The Center does not accept material from businesses or residents from outside Knox County. Additional information about the Knoxville Household Hazardous Waste Center is available at 215-6700.


Mercury thermometers are both an environmental and a health and safety problem. Broken thermometers are a potential source for injury from the broken glass, as well as a chemical hazard from the mercury in the thermometer. Mercury has many toxic effects in the body. If a thermometer is broken and not properly cleaned up, tiny droplets of mercury can evaporate over time. When mercury vapor is inhaled, it enters the blood and can damage the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver. Children and fetuses are at special risk. Swallowing or touching mercury metal is not nearly as toxic; so if a broken thermometer is cleaned up properly and promptly, people will not be harmed.In the environment, mercury falls with rain and snow, contaminating lakes and streams and accumulating in the bodies of fish and wildlife. Natural processes can convert mercury into methylmercury, an even more dangerous form of the metal.Mercury was used for many years in thermometers designed for household use because no alternatives were available. However, this is no longer the case. In July 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement about the health effects of mercury, urging doctors and parents to stop using mercury thermometers and to dispose of them properly.

Should a mercury thermometer break, parents and teachers are reminded that they should NEVER use a vacuum cleaner to clean up the mercury. It can cause tiny droplets in the air, increasing the danger of inhalation, both immediately at the site and with any future use of the contaminated vacuum. 


USGS Mercury in the Environment - Fact sheet that includes toxic effects, risk to people, risk to wildlife, fish advisories, sources of mercury, environments where methylmercury is a problem, and mercury contamination - past, present, and future.

Mercury Contamination of Aquatic Ecosystems

Mercury Research in the USGS

U.S. EPA Mercury Website - Includes general information, actions, fish advisories, and technical information

South Florida Restoration Science Forum - Includes: Can control of local sources reduce the risks? How will Everglades restoration affect mercury risks? Can management of water quantity or quality reduce the risks? Tracing foodweb relations and fish migratory habits in the Everglades and mercury toxicity in the food chain. Also related sites.