Coulter Counters are widely used in hospital laboratories. This automated method of counting and measuring the size of microscopic particles is a key tool in clinical diagnostics and medical research to count and size myriad microscopic particles. Coulter Counters are highly technical pieces of equipment that rely on numerous switches and gauges to function reliably and accurately.
So where's the mercury? Some Coulter models have mercury gauges or switches in them, but there is no rule about which model or year. The mercury may be in a pressure gauge, on-off switch, timing count gauge, vacuum gauge, and possibly other gauges, depending on the model. There is no evidence that the mercury in this equipment is spilling, leaking or causing other problems. However to protect human health and the environment, it is best to proactively plan for mercury control and elimination.
To find out if your model has mercury gauges or switches and whether they can be replaced, you must contact Beckman Coulter. Your Coulter technical service representative can provide information about your particular piece of equipment.
In many cases, mercury-containing components can be successfully replaced with electronic gauges or switches. If a mercury gauge or switch can be replaced, you can order an "empty" mercury replacement kit which includes a send-back box with DOT labeling. (The replacement kits that are not "empty" include a new mercury gauge or switch.) Then you must order the replacement electronic gauge or switch separately and have your Coulter service representative install it for you. These are not normally self-service parts.
What you can do:
For more information on mercury and alternatives, refer to the mercury section of this web site or contact the SHP by phone (978-934-3386) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Be aware of the potential for mercury switches and gauges when buying a new Coulter Counter so you can specify that only electronic switches and gauges be installed.
- Label mercury-containing switches and gauges on existing equipment. If the equipment is being maintained or repaired, ensure that workers are aware of the presence of mercury and how to properly handle disposal and accidental spills.
- Establish a central list of where mercury switches and gages are located on Coulter Counters and other equipment throughout your facility. If one of these switches or gages is being replaced, replace it with a mercury-free alternative. Set up a program to systematically replace mercury switches and gages before they fail.
- When disposing of an old Coulter unit, dispose of mercury-containing elements in a safe manner.
The SHP thanks Lara Sutherland of INFORM, Inc. for her contributions to this fact sheet.