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16.14.5 Mercury Containing Equipment

Elemental Mercury (Hg) or liquid Mercury is commonly seen in thermometers, barometers, diffusion pumps, sphygmomanometers, thermostats, high intensity microscope bulbs, fluorescent bulbs, UV lamps, batteries, Coulter Counter, boilers, ovens, welding machines, etc.

Most of these items can be substituted with equipment without Mercury, thus greatly decreasing the hazard potential. Larger laboratory equipment may be more difficult to identify as “Mercury containing” due to the fact that mercury can be hidden inside inner components such as switches or gauges.

The concerns surrounding mercury containing equipment are:

  • It is difficult to identify exposures or cross-contamination due to Mercury leaks or spills. 
  • The amount of Mercury used is usually much greater than the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reportable quantities for releases to the environment. 
  • People may be unaware of the Mercury and thus may not be properly trained for use, maintenance, spills, transport or disposal or may not use the appropriate engineering controls or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 
  • There is legal liability if human health and the environment are not properly protected.

To minimize the potential for Mercury spills and possible exposures, laboratory personnel is strongly encouraged to follow these recommendations:

  • Identify and label “Mercury Containing Equipment”.
  • Write a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).
  • Train personnel on proper use, maintenance, transport and disposal.
  • Conduct periodic inspections of equipment to ensure no leaks or spills have occurred.
  • Consider replacing Mercury with electronic or other replacement components.
  • Have available proper PPE such as nitrile gloves.
  • Use secondary containment, such as trays as a precaution for spills.
  • Plan for emergency such as a spill or release of mercury.
  • Decontaminate and remove Mercury before long-term storage, transport or disposal.
  • For new equipment purchases, please attempt to procure instruments with no or little Mercury