Mercury in the Home: A Resource Guide

Mercury     Mercury, also known as quicksilver, is a chemical element found on the periodic table. It is one of only five elements that are liquid at room temperature. Mercury is a heavy, silvery, transition metal, often found in household, medical and industrial products. The ability to easily bond with other elements and its versatility make mercury incredibly useful. 

Although mercury is useful, it also poses significant health threats to humans. Exposure to mercury affects the nervous system and can have fatal effects. When not disposed of properly, mercury is also an environmental hazard. Recycling mercury is an important step in protecting human and environmental health.

Only one-third of the mercury found in the environment is naturally occurring, therefore human pollution is the greatest cause. Mercury containing products used around the house or garage often go unnoticed and are rarely disposed of properly. The following page will provide you with potential sources of mercury around your home, along with links and information on how to properly recycle or dispose of it.    Mercury  

Mercury in Automobiles:

Car Switch    Mercury can be found in many places inside your vehicle. Switches for breaks, seat belts and in the lights found inside trunks and hoods, all can contain liquid mercury. These automotive switches containing mercury are often easily and cheaply replaced and should be done so immediately. For more information on mercury switches visit the following links:  


Mercury in Light Bulbs:

  lightbulb Mercury vapor is used in fluorescent light bulbs because it is an incredibly efficient and environmentally friendly choice for manufacturers and consumers alike (they use up to 50% less electricity). Efficiency aside, the mercury vapors contained in fluorescent bulbs and HID lighting are highly toxic and easily absorbed by human body if the fragile bulbs are broken. These bulbs need to be handled carefully and recycled. For information on proper disposal methods of light bulbs containing mercury, please visit the following sites:  



Mercury in Batteries:

  Household batteries can contain heavy metals that pollute our environment and contaminate our landfills. Cadmium, lead and mercury are found in many of these batteries and are often just thrown away with normal wastes. The following links provide information on what batteries may contain mercury or other hazardous materials and options for their disposal:    Mercury



Mercury in Thermostats
and Thermometers:


  Thermostat Because of its ability to flow and expand as it warms, mercury has been used in thermostats and thermometers for over 40 years. Thermostats containing mercury require little maintenance and are highly precise. Glass thermometers are equally accurate but are also incredibly fragile. Digital versions of both of these items are just as efficient and accurate as their mercury containing counterparts, but are much safer for humans and the environment alike. For more information on these mercury-containing products please visit:   



General Mercury Tips and Information:

For other sources of household products containing mercury, general tips on how to store, identify, or clean up wastes, and for information on the upcoming Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Days in Cayuga County, please visit these websites:


Much of the information on this page was modeled after Onondaga County Department of Drainage and Sanitation's "Mercury Awareness Program" brochure: