What is mercury and why is it a concern?
Mercury is a naturally occurring metal and is a chemical element. It is also one of the primary pollutants of concern in Indiana. It cannot be artificially produced and it does not break down into other substances. Although mercury is a metal, it is a liquid at room temperature. Because of its chemical properties, it conducts electricity and is especially useful in a variety of electronic devices and in industrial applications. Mercury is also highly toxic to humans and wildlife. In humans, it can damage the liver, kidneys and brain. If ingested, read more...
Amalgam materials used in the past for filling dental cavities often contained mercury. Although mercury is no longer used by dentists, dental offices are required to have special equipment including amalgam separators that trap mercury and allow it to be properly handled. New dental offices are required to submit a report to City Utilities to let us know that you are meeting the requirements of the federal rules. Also, dental offices that are bought or sold must submit a report at the time of sale. In 2020, all dental offices will be required to submit a report.
Mercury and our environment
Significant quantities of mercury have been found in many Indiana streams and in our air. Read more...
What are the sources of mercury?
- Thermometers with silver colored liquid inside
- Thermostats (non-electric)
- Clothes irons with an automatic shut-off function
- Fluorescent light bulbs and mercury vapor lamps
- Some latex paint manufactured before 1990 ( mercury was used to inhibit the growth of mold)
- Batteries (Mercuric oxide and some alkaline batteries)
- Gauges such as barometers and older blood pressure meters
- Electrical switches on appliances such as space heaters, freezers, and sump pumps
- Laboratory chemicals
- Antibacterial products containing thimerosal or merbromin
- Scientific apparatus
How can I prevent mercury pollution?
- Learn about common products that contain mercury
- Make a list of the products in your home that contain mercury using the Household Mercury Source Identification checklist
- Avoid buying products that contain mercury except for fluorescent light bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs use less electricity than incandescent bulbs.
- Keep mercury-containing items out of the trash (including fluorescent light bulbs). Use appropriate disposal methods or recycle mercury-containing products.
- Make an effort to reduce reliance on coal burning by conserving electricity whenever possible.
- Never break open items that may contain mercury
- Never burn mercury
What do I do in the case of a spill?
Most small mercury pills (such as a spill from a thermometer used to take a person's temperature) can be cleaned up by following these instructions: Read more...
For large spills or when in doubt about what to do, call:
- Fort Wayne Water Pollution Control Plant at (260) 427-1243
- Call the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) Spill Line toll-free at (888) 233-7745. IDEM personnel can determine if IDEM and or US Environmental Protection Agency staff should be called in to perform a clean-up operation.
For further information about human exposure to mercury, please call the Poison Center at (800) 222-1222.
For Information about disposal in Allen County, Indiana, contact Allen County Solid Waste Management District at (260) 449-7265 or go to www.acwastewatcher.org.
More resources are available from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management by visiting http://www.in.gov/idem/recycle/2348.htm.