June 16, 2005 - The City of Knoxville Solid
Waste Section is pleased to join with the Knox County Health Department
(KCHD), the TN Department of Environment and Conservation, the Safe
Kids Coalition of the Greater Knox Area and the CAC Office on Aging
to conduct a mercury thermometer exchange for City of Knoxville and
Knox County residents at John T. O'Connor Senior Citizen's Center,
to be held on Thursday, June 30, 2005. The exchange will take place
from 10 AM to 2 PM, or until the supply of 200 thermometers is exhausted.
This was a very successful event held last year with all thermometers
exchanged before the end of the event scheduled times.
Mercury thermometers are both an environmental and a health and
safety problem. Broken thermometers are a potential source on injury
from the broken glass, as well as a chemical hazard from the mercury
in the thermometer.
This event will offer an opportunity for citizens to replace used
mercury thermometers with battery-operated digital thermometers,
provided by the sponsoring organizations. The digital thermometers
will be available to the public at no cost, in exchange for used
mercury thermometers. Residents may bring in as many used thermometers
as they wish but because of supplies they can only receive one digital
thermometer per family.
For safety while transporting the thermometers, please bring them
in their storage cases. If the case is not available or the thermometer
is broken, the thermometer can be brought in a 12-ounce plastic
soda bottle with a screw-cap lid.
This exchange is limited to mercury thermometers from households;
other type of mercury-containing waste such as old non-digital thermostats,
barometers, manometers and other household mercury waste or devices
should be brought to the Knoxville Household Hazardous Waste Center,
where it will be accepted for disposal during business hours. The
Household Hazardous Waste Center is free to residents of Knox County
and City of Knoxville residents only and is located at 1033 Elm
Street. The Center does not accept material from businesses, or
residents from out side Knox County. Additional information about
the Knoxville Household Hazardous Waste Center is available at 215-6700
or on the city's
web site. (The website includes directions and a map.)
Mercury has many toxic effects in the body. If a thermometer is
broken and not properly cleaned up, tiny droplets of mercury can
evaporate over time. When mercury vapor is inhaled, it enters the
blood and can damage the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver.
Children and fetuses are at special risk. Swallowing or touching
mercury metal is not nearly as toxic; thus if a broken thermometer
is cleaned up properly and promptly people will not be harmed.
In the environment, mercury falls with rain and snow, contaminating
lakes and streams and accumulating in the bodies of fish and wildlife.
Natural processes can convert mercury into methylmercury, an even
more dangerous form of the metal.
Mercury was used for many years in thermometers designed for household
use because no alternatives were available. However, this is no
longer the case today. In July 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics
issued a policy statement about the health effects of mercury, and
urged doctors and parents to stop using mercury thermometers and
to dispose of them properly.
Parents are especially encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity
to safely dispose of a household hazard and replace it with a safe
substitute for free. Small children can easily break thermometers
and they find the shiny drops of mercury fascinating.
In the event a mercury thermometer breaks, the public is reminded
that they should NEVER use a vacuum cleaner to clean up the mercury.
It can make tiny droplets in the air, increasing the problem and
contaminating the vacuum cleaner as well. The state of Tennessee
has a fact sheet describing proper cleanup procedures for broken
thermometers at: http://www2.state.tn.us/health/FactSheets/mercury.htm