A Simple Question to Help Keep Mercury out of Our Environment

A Simple Question to Help Keep Mercury out of Our Environment

Posted May 28, 2015

Are you aware that many thermostats manufactured prior to 2006 contain mercury? Are you aware that a mercury thermostat contains at least 1,000 times more mercury than today’s standard compact fluorescent light bulb?  Are you aware that mercury thermostats likely carry the majority of mercury found in homes today and yet thousands still end up in the trash each year?

In its various forms mercury can be harmful to human health and the environment.  When mercury from thermostats ends up in the trash, it has been proven to trickle into landfills and waste incinerators, from which the mercury may enter our rivers, lakes and streams. In a natural environment, it converts into an even more toxic form that enters plants and animals in the food chain.  And while thermostats are not a significant source of mercury pollution, they should be an easy one to control.

Several states prohibit the disposal of mercury thermostats in the trash and also require contractors to recycle every mercury thermostat they remove from service. However, many contractors or their employees disregard the law by continuing to throw mercury thermostats in the trash. This is despite the fact that thermostat manufacturers have been operating a free and universally accessible recycling program since 2005.

With summer’s arrival it’s likely your cooling contractor will be at your home for an annual system maintenance check.   Do our environment a favor—Ask the technician the following question:

“What is your company’s policy regarding the disposal of mercury thermostats and how does it monitor compliance?”

Hopefully you will like the answer.  However, if you don’t like the answer, let the technician know you expect your contractor to properly dispose of mercury thermostats.  It may not be against the law in every state to throw mercury thermostats in the trash, but it is still wrong.

So, ask the question. Ensure your HVAC contractor is doing the right thing for the environment by recycling every mercury thermostat, every time.

Mark Tibbetts is the Executive Director of Thermostat Recycling Corporation, a non-profit stewardship organization supported by 30 manufacturers who historically branded and sold mercury thermostats in the United States.

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