Just how much mercury is there in hospital equipment? Many hospitals ask this question in order to prioritize mercury reduction efforts and to understand the potential for a mercury release if there is a spill.
An estimate of mercury content in medical devices and facility equipment is shown in the following tables. Note that these are estimates and that variations may exist by manufacturer or even model.
|Medical Device||Approximate amount of Hg|
|Consumer fever thermometers||0.5 g - 1.5 g|
|Hospital laboratory thermometers||3 g - 4 g|
|Wall blood pressure units and floor portable units||110 - 200 g|
|Maloney or Hurst bougies (esophageal dilators)1, 2||A tube may contain as much as
3 pounds (1361 g) of mercury
|Cantor tubes1||54 g - 136 g|
|Miller Abbott tubes1||136 g|
|Dennis tubes1||136 g|
|Foley catheter1||68 g|
|Building Product||Approximate amount of Hg|
|Fluorescent light bulbs||10 - 50 mg per tube, depending
on size and model
|High intensity discharge (HID) lamps||10 - 250 mg|
|Thermostats||3 grams per switch (Some units
have as many as 6 switches)
|Mercury switches, including: mechanical/tilt switches,
reed switches, float switches
|3.5 grams - 8 pounds per switch|
|Flow meters||Often 11 pounds or more|
|Flame sensors||3 g|
|Gas regulators and meters||Older gas meters contain
approximately 2 g - 4 g of mercury
|Boiler guage controls||Some boilers contain 23 pounds -
75 pounds of mercury
For more information about mercury, visit the following websites:
The Sustainable Hospitals Project (SHP) website provides information on alternatives to mercury containing products. You may also contact the SHP at 978-934-3386 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Burlington (Massachusetts) Board of Health website contains mercury educational materials and identification guides, as well as case studies describing mercury recovery efforts targeting local businesses, residents, and schools.
Health Care Without Harm works with the health care industry in pollution prevention initiatives, including the phase-out of mercury-containing products. HCWH's online mercury resources include the brochures "Mercury Thermometers and Your Family's Health" and "How to Plan and Hold a Mercury Thermometer Exchange" for hospitals, schools or community.
The Sustainable Hospitals Project thanks Bill Ravanesi (HCWH) and Todd Dresser (Burlington, Massachusetts, Board of Health) for their contributions to this fact sheet.