How To Dispose Of Mercury Products Safely

Friday 24th February 2023

Ellen Warren

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Woman disposing of mercury lightbulb

CONTENTS

Everyone will get exposed to mercury at some point in their life, but these are often very low-level exposures over an extended period. However, when certain household items, like thermometers and CFLs break, you could be exposed to a harmful amount of the heavy metal. 

At ICE Cleaning, we offer mercury clean-up services for both small and large spills. We can be on-site within a few hours in an emergency.

Read on to find out how to dispose of mercury products safely.

What is mercury?

Mercury is an element that exists in several forms, with the most familiar form being elemental mercury. It is a shiny, silver substance that becomes liquid at room temperature. Liquid mercury evaporates into invisible, toxic, and odourless vapour.

However, the deadliest form is methylmercury, and it is the most common form people may encounter. Most humans will have mercury in their bodies caused by naturally occurring methylmercury, but not enough to cause significant health effects. 

The dangers of mercury

If you breathe in the toxic vapour, ingest the metal, or touch it, you could be in danger of severe illness. Prolonged exposure to elemental mercury could have critical consequences, especially when breathing in the fumes. You could start showing symptoms such as:

  • Breathlessness
  • Chest Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Memory loss
  • Eye and skin irritation

Continuous exposure can even damage your organs and nervous system. In the event of exposure to large quantities of mercury, you must evacuate the area and bring in professional cleaners to clean it up. 

What products contain mercury?

There are two types of mercury exposure that we come across in our lifetime: general and occupational exposures. 

General exposures are the most common ways we come across mercury, for example, the consumption of some fish and food from contaminated soils. This also includes our interactions with everyday products that contain mercury.

In the UK, there are a lot of regulations and laws surrounding the use of mercury, but you may still own some products that contain mercury like:

  • Glass thermometers
  • Fluorescent light bulbs
  • UV curing lamps
  • Tilt switches
  • Mercury batteries
  • Circuit boards
  • Backlights

Those who experience occupational exposure are people working in the mining, manufacturing, and waste disposal industries. These exposures can be more dangerous, especially in the workplace where more are at risk.

How to dispose of mercury products safely

When you come across a product that may contain traces of mercury, you should take responsibility to dispose of it properly. Some electronic products contain traces of mercury such as mobile phones and television sets that include backlights, therefore requiring hazardous waste or mercury disposal.

You can do this by looking up your local waste disposal, or checking your council’s advice on disposing of hazardous waste:

What to do if there is a mercury spillage

If you spill mercury or break a product that contains mercury, you must contact professional cleaners immediately. Do not try to clean up the mercury yourself.

Ventilate the area by opening windows and doors that lead to the outside if it is safe. Then, close any doors that lead to other rooms to prevent the vapours from spreading.

The next thing you have to do is evacuate the premises and contain the area. Do not re-enter the contaminated area and get in contact with cleaners who can provide professional mercury clean-up services.

Get in touch

ICE Cleaning provides specialist cleaning services that can deal with mercury spillage. Our expert technicians hold several qualifications such as IOSH and Safe Contractor, and are available 24/7, 365 days a year.

Contact us on 0208 066 0360 or email us at enquiries@icecleaning.co.uk to book our technicians for mercury clean-up. 

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