Thermometer Exchange

The Marathon County Health Department is collecting old thermometers as part of its Mercury Reduction Program. If you have one, you can exchange it for a free digital one.

Exposure to mercury can cause serious health problems and one thermometer can destroy a 10 acre lake.

To find out more information, contact the Marathon County Health Department at 715-261-1900.

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What is Mercury?

  • Mercury is a naturally occurring metal which has several forms.

  • The metallic mercury is a shiny, silver-white, odorless liquid. If heated, it is a colorless, odorless gas.

  • Metallic mercury is used to produce chlorine gas and caustic soda and also used in thermometers, dental fillings, and batteries.

  • Mercury combines with other elements, such as chlorine, sulfur, or oxygen, to form inorganic mercury compounds or "salts," which are usually white powders or crystals.

  • Mercury salts are used in skin-lightening creams and as antiseptic creams and ointments.

How might you be exposed to mercury?

  • Eating fish or shellfish contaminated with methylmercury (The most common form of mercury salts)

  • Breathing vapors in air from spills, incinerators, and industries that burn mercury-containing fuels.

  • Release of mercury from dental work and medical treatments.

  • Breathing contaminated workplace air or skin contact during use in the workplace (dental, health services, chemical, and other industries that use mercury).

How does mercury affect your health?

  • The nervous system is very sensitive to all forms of mercury.

  • Exposure to high levels of metallic, inorganic, or organic mercury can permanently damage the brain, kidneys, and developing fetus.

  • Effects on brain functioning may result in irritability, shyness, tremors, changes in vision or hearing, and memory problems.

  • Short-term exposure to high levels of metallic mercury vapors may cause effects including lung damage, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, increases in blood pressure or heart rate, skin rashes, and eye irritation.

What can you do if you think you have been exposed?

  • Tests are available to measure mercury levels in the body.

  • Blood or urine samples are used to test for exposure to metallic mercury and to inorganic forms of mercury.

  • Mercury in whole blood or in scalp hair is measured to determine exposure to methylmercury.

  • Your doctor can take samples and send them to a testing laboratory.

Source: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/tfacts46.html (The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Web site)