Mercury can be found in many types of electrical equipment (see table below) and the equipment can have a lifetime measured in decades. Renovation is usually the reason that the equipment is replaced. Even if mercury use in newly manufactured equipment is discontinued, the recycling or disposal of used equipment will require an awareness of the mercury content for a long time to come.
Manufacturers have not eliminated mercury in all electrical equipment due to cost considerations. However, because of an awareness of mercury problems, manufacturers are increasingly making alternatives available. Ask your vendor to assist the hospital in selecting mercury-free products.
Mercury-containing Electrical Equipment
|Type of Switch||Where Equipment is Used||Possible Alternative|
|Tilt switch||Airflow/fan limit control
Building security systems
Fire alarm box
Fluid level, pressure or temperature control devices
Laptop computer screen shutoff
Lids of clothes washers and chest freezers
Silent light switch
|Float switch||Bilge pumps
|Magnetic dry reed switch
|Thermostat||Temperature control device may have a mercury tilt switch||Electronic thermostat|
|Reed relay||Low voltage, high precision analytical equipment such as electron microscope||Solid state relay
Dry reed relay
|Plunger or displacement relay||High current, high voltage applications such as lighting, resistance heating, power supply switching||Mechanical switch|
|Thermostat probe||Electric stoves
Hot water heaters
If the hospital is preparing used electrical equipment for recycling or disposal and there is a question about the mercury content, obtain this information from the manufacturers. Remove any mercury-containing parts from the equipment. Store the parts in a tightly covered container labeled as to its contents. Parts from switches, thermostats, relays and thermostat probes (including the thermostat probes described in the section on Thermostat Probes in Gas Appliances) can be stored in the same container. The container could be located in the supply area of the hospital where replacement parts are stored until it is full and ready for transport to the hospital's designated hazardous waste collection point. Recyclers are available that accept these equipment components.
Honeywell Corporation has a free take-back program to collect any brand of used mercury-containing thermostats. To use the system, contact a heating, ventilating and air-conditioning wholesaler to learn if the wholesaler is participating in the program. Honeywell provides a special container for thermostats to each participating wholesaler. Do not remove the switches from your thermostats before taking them to the wholesaler. (Call 800-345-6770 for further information.)
Honeywell is one example of a take-back program. Other companies may have such programs. Contact your supplier to learn if this option is available. Take-back programs may be subject to Universal Waste Rules that have been adopted by New York State. Check with the appropriate local and state agencies to ensure that the specific take-back program is legal.