Waste Commission of Scott County handles mercury found in the home (such as thermometers and thermostats) through its Household Hazardous Material Program. Mercury, with the exception of fluorescent tubes and CFL bulbs, is accepted by appointment only.
If a mercury thermometer breaks, Iowa DNR suggests following these clean up and disposal guidelines:
Cleanup Instructions for Broken Thermometers:
- Have everyone else leave the area; don't let anyone walk through the mercury on their way out. Make sure all pets are removed from the area. Open all windows and doors to the outside; shut all doors to other parts of the house.
- DO NOT allow children to help you clean up the spill.
- Mercury can be cleaned up easily from the following surfaces: wood, linoleum, tile and any similarly smooth surfaces.
- If a spill occurs on carpet, curtains, upholstery or other absorbent surfaces, these contaminated items should be thrown away in accordance with the disposal means outlined below. Only cut and remove the affected portion of the contaminated carpet for disposal.
- Put on rubber, nitrile or latex gloves.
- If there are any broken pieces of glass or sharp objects, pick them up with care. Place all broken objects on a paper towel. Fold the paper towel and place in a zip lock bag. Secure the bag and label it as directed by your local health or fire department.
- Locate visible mercury beads. Use a squeegee or cardboard to gather mercury beads. Use slow sweeping motions to keep mercury from becoming uncontrollable. Take a flashlight, hold it at a low angle close to the floor in a darkened room and look for additional glistening beads of mercury that may be sticking to the surface or in small cracked areas of the surface. Note: Mercury can move surprising distances on hard-flat surfaces, so be sure to inspect the entire room when "searching."
- Use the eyedropper to collect or draw up the mercury beads. Slowly and carefully squeeze mercury onto a damp paper towel. Place the paper towel in a zip lock bag and secure. Make sure to label the bag "BROKEN THERMOMETER."
- After you remove larger beads, put shaving cream on top of small paint brush and gently "dot" the affected area to pick up smaller hard-to-see beads. Alternatively, use duct tape to collect smaller hard-to-see beads. Place the paint brush or duct tape in a zip lock bag and secure. Make sure to label the bag "BROKEN THERMOMETER."
- OPTIONAL STEP: It is OPTIONAL to use commercially available powdered sulfur to absorb the beads that are too small to see. The sulfur does two things: (1) it makes the mercury easier to see since there may be a color change from yellow to brown and (2) it binds the mercury so that it can be easily removed and suppresses the vapor of any missing mercury. Where to get commercialized sulfur? It may be supplied as mercury vapor absorbent in mercury spill kits, which can be purchased from laboratory, chemical supply and hazardous materials response supply manufacturers. Note: Powdered sulfur may stain fabrics a dark color. When using powdered sulfur, do not breathe in the powder as it can be moderately toxic. Additionally, users should read and understand product information before use.
- If you choose not to use this option, you may want to request the services of a contractor who has monitoring equipment to screen for mercury vapors. Consult your county health department to inquire about contractors in your area. Place all materials used with the cleanup, including gloves, in a trash bag. Place all mercury beads and objects into the trash bag. Secure trash bag and label it "BROKEN THERMOMETER."
- Contact Waste Commission of Scott County at 563-381-1300 for disposal information.
- Remember to keep the area well ventilated to the outside (i.e., windows open and fans in exterior windows running) for at least 24 hours after your successful cleanup. Continue to keep pets and children out of cleanup area. If sickness occurs, seek medical attention immediately.