Mercury is a heavy, silvery-white metal element. It can exist as a liquid at room temperature or as a solid crystal salt. The liquid metal form gives off invisible, odorless, toxic vapors. Mercury can also be found in organic compounds. Commonly, metallic mercury can be found in thermometers, barometers, electrical switches, thermostats and in dental fillings. Mercury has also been found in some skin products sold abroad. For more information, please see our Mercury Frequently Asked Questions (PDF).
Mercury Reduction Program Newsletter
Mercury Management Information
The Marathon County Solid Waste Department accepts mercury and mercury containing devices for safe environmental management. All types of fluorescent light bulbs contain small amounts of mercury and can be taken to the Marathon County Solid Waste Department for a small fee. Transport your thermometers or mercury products safely by double bagging them, using zip-lock bags or putting them in a sealed plastic container. Light bulbs should be cushioned to reduce risk of breakage.
For more information, check out www.marathoncountysolidwaste.org, or call the toll-free Marathon County Solid Waste Department Information Line at 1-877-270-3989.
To schedule an appointment to drop off your items, please call 715-446-3101 Ext. 100
Mercury Thermometer Exchange Sites
If your thermometer is not digital and has a silver liquid metal in it (most commonly found in the bulb at the end of the device), it probably contains mercury. Alcohol-based thermometers usually contain a red or blue liquid, but they too can have a silver bulb on them. If you think you have a mercury-containing thermometer, you can exchange it for a digital thermometer at one of the following locations.
- Marathon County Health Department: 715-261-1900
- Wausau Fire Department: 715-261-7900
- Rothschild Municipal Center: 715-359-3660
- Rib Mountain Fire Department: 715-355-6763
- Schofield Municipal Center: 715-359-5230
- Kronenwetter Municipal Center: 715-693-4200
- Mosinee City Hall: 715-693-2275
Mercury Spill Information and Cleanup Guidance
This information is offered to help you respond to mercury spills. Most spills associated with fever thermometers or other small spills can be cleaned up by following the guidance provided here. While the amount of mercury involved with broken thermometers is usually very small, it can be enough to in some cases, to produce unhealthy exposure to mercury vapor. If you have a large spill (more than 2 tablespoons or 1 fluid ounce), or are not sure about the hazards or your ability to respond, please contact your local Health Department or seek expert help from the agencies or contractors listed under Resources.
Quick response to any mercury spill is very important. Even small spills can, in some cases, cause high levels of mercury vapors that are unsafe to breathe. Mercury vapors are readily absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream and are therefore, particularly hazardous. Mercury vapors are also heavier than air and may linger in higher concentrations close to the floor. Children who crawl or play in these areas are at highest risk of breathing these vapors.
- DO NOT use a vacuum to clean up mercury. The filters in household furnaces and even high efficiency vacuums will not remove mercury vapors. Of even greater concern, the vacuum exhaust will put more mercury vapor in the air. The vacuum will also be contaminated. If you already have used a vacuum to clean a spill, carefully double-bag the vacuum, seal and remove it from the building. Quickly isolate the areas as described below because there may be higher amounts of mercury vapor in air.
- DO NOT use a broom to clean up mercury. It will break the mercury into smaller beads, further spreading it and making more vapor.
- DO NOT allow people whose shoes have contacted mercury to take their shoes beyond the spill area. Further contamination of the building may result. The shoes should be removed and protective foot coverings, such as Tyvek booties should be provided.
- DO NOT put mercury in the trash. Mercury can be released in the environment and will further impact human health.
- DO NOT put mercury or mercury-containing items in a burn barrel. Vapors and smoke will be produced releasing mercury into the environment and create an exposure risk.
- DO NOT pour or allow mercury to go down a drain. It can lodge in the trap, and produce airborne vapor creating an inhalation risk. It will also lead to mercury contamination of the wastewater system.
- DO NOT wash mercury-contaminated items in a washing machine. Mercury may contaminate the machine and/or be discharged to the environment in wastewater.
Note: Everything used during the cleanup procedure should be managed as mercury-contaminated waste unless you are positive it has not come into contact with mercury. Seek advice from your local county health department, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources or by contacting one of the disposal references listed under Resources below.
Follow the links below to direct you to additional information.
For additional information about mercury, or if you have questions, send an email to Michelle at the Marathon County Health Department, or call 715-261-1900.