Do Barometers Contain Mercury?

Friday 13th October 2023

Joanna Grimbley-Smith

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Close up of a barometer CONTENTS

 

One of the most common causes of mercury spillages in the home is from broken antique barometers. They can contain around four ounces of the hazardous metal which, if not cleaned up and disposed of correctly, can put you at risk of serious health problems.

Here at ICE Cleaning, our technicians can handle any size and form of mercury spill. Our mercury spill cleaning services consist of a three-stage decontamination process that will quickly restore the affected area to a safe environment. In an emergency, we can be on site within a matter of hours.

Keep reading to find out what you should do when your mercury barometer breaks in your home.

Does your barometer contain mercury?

Mercury used to be used in lots of household products including barometers, thermometers, thermostats, and electrical switches and relays. In recent years, selling mercury-containing mercury devices has become illegal in the UK to protect people’s health in the event of a spillage.

However, some of these antique goods may still be present in the home. That being said, if you do own an antique barometer, it might not contain mercury.

There are lots of different types of barometer, including water barometers and aneroid barometers, so you should check to see if there is mercury in your barometer to ensure you are prepared for a spill.

How do mercury barometers work?

A barometer measures air pressure and is used in weather forecasting. It can also indicate how weather conditions might change. A mercury barometer consists of a glass tube with one end sealed which sits upside-down in a reservoir of mercury.

It works by balancing the weight of the mercury against atmospheric pressure. The height of the mercury level will change until the weight of the mercury in the tube is the same as the weight of the air above the reservoir.

When the weight of the mercury is lower than atmospheric pressure, the column of mercury will be forced to rise. If the mercury’s weight is more than that of atmospheric pressure, the mercury will fall.

The dangers of mercury exposure

There are three forms of mercury: elemental mercury, the shiny silver liquid metal found in barometers, inorganic mercury, and methylmercury which we are often exposed to through consuming fish.

All forms of mercury are toxic and exposure to elemental mercury is very dangerous. You can find out more about the hazards associated with the different forms of mercury here.

It slowly evaporates into a colourless, odourless gas which, when inhaled, can harm the nervous system, kidneys, and lungs. It can also lead to a range of other health problems including:

  • Eye and skin irritation
  • Coughing and difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Weight loss
  • Irritability

What to do when mercury spills in your home

First, evacuate the room so no one inhales any mercury vapour or accidentally treads in it as they could spread it around the property. Make sure no pets are allowed in the affected area as they could step in it, too.

Next, keep the area well ventilated to stop mercury vapour building up. Don’t forget to close doors that lead to the rest of the property or vapours could travel elsewhere.

You must also turn down heaters and switch off the air conditioning to reduce the amount of evaporation and prevent vapours from spreading around.

Then, contact professional cleaners, like ICE Cleaning, to clean up and dispose of the mercury. It is not recommended that you try to clean up mercury yourself to protect your health and ensure all the mercury is removed.

They will have the specialist equipment and training to deal with the spillage quickly and safely. ICE Cleaning’s technicians, for example, will flush out the vapour, get rid of every trace of mercury, test the mercury vapour level to confirm the area is safe again, and finally dispose of the waste.

You can find out more about why mercury clean up should always be left to specialist cleaners in this blog.

After professional cleaners have finished cleaning up the spillage, ventilate the area for 24 hours by keeping windows open and running fans.

What not to do

  • Don’t hoover, mop, or sweep up mercury: the metal will contaminate your cleaning tool and you will just end up spreading the mercury around the area. Vacuum cleaners will also warm up the mercury and encourage it to evaporate.
  • Don’t keep or wash any contaminated clothing: otherwise you will just contaminate your washing machine. You must dispose of contaminated clothes according to local regulations.
  • Don’t put mercury down the drain: it could get lodged in the plumbing, or pollute the septic tank or septic treatment plant.

Contact us today

Our technicians are hazardous chemical clean up specialists that are fully permitted to handle and dispose of mercury. They are available nationwide, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Get in touch with our team on 0208 066 0360 or send an email to enquiries@icecleaning.co.uk to learn more about our mercury spill clean up services and get a free, no-obligation quote. 

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