Skip to main content

7.8 Mercury

Metallic mercury is collected and recycled. It should be packaged in a tightly sealed and leak free container such as a bottle or vial with a screw top lid. Place broken mercury thermometers in a leak proof container or a secured plastic bag. When collecting metallic mercury, DO NOT mix with other chemicals or waste if at all possible.

Do not use the past practice of adding sulfur, nitric acid, or water in an attempt to contain vapors. This only results in more hazardous waste being generated and rendering the metallic mercury as non-recyclable. However, the use of commercial ‘Hg Absorb’ powder found in mercury spill kits is acceptable. Commercial mercury spill kits can be found through Cornell’s eShop preferred suppliers.

Mercury is a highly toxic chemical and any mercury spills, including broken thermometers, must be cleaned up and the spill debris disposed through the hazardous waste management program. If you have a spill of mercury outside of the fume hood, leave the room and call 911 to report the spill information.

Never use a regular vacuum cleaner to clean up a mercury spill, this will only cause the mercury to vaporize and disperse into the air. EHS has a special mercury vacuum designed for cleaning up mercury spills and a mercury detection meter to determine if all mercury has been cleaned up from a spill.

For more information on mercury and management of mercury at Cornell, go to the Mercury Thermometer Exchange Program.