COLUMBIA — If you own a thermometer, thermostat or blood pressure cuff that contains mercury, the Columbia/Boone County Health Department wants you to get rid of it.
- Secure the item in two zip-top plastic bags
- Place the bags in a sealed container, such as a coffee can or plastic margarine tub
- Call the drop-off site before taking in items to be discarded. If you're dropping your item(s) off at the Columbia/Boone County Health Department, you can call 874-7346.
- Do not leave items if the facility is closed
- Call the Missouri Department of Natural Resource's spill line at 573-634-2436 to arrange to have items picked up if you are worried about transporting them
To learn more about the health risks associated with elemental and other forms of mercury, visit the Environmental Protection Agency's Web site at epa.gov/mercury/effects.htm.
The Health Department, in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, has launched an effort, continuing through February, urging citizens to rid their homes of products that might contain mercury.
Any private citizen or nonprofit agency can drop off mercury-containing items at one of the nearly 90 locations throughout the state, including 11 in central Missouri alone. In Columbia, that site is the Sanford-Kimpton Building at 1005 W. Worley St.
The program does not include the collection of compact fluorescent bulbs.
While the risk of mercury poisoning might seem slight, direct exposure to mercury or inhalation of its vapors can be serious. This is especially true when the mercury-containing item is broken and left unnoticed for a long period of time.
“As long as the mercury isn’t released, there really isn’t a danger, but as long as the (mercury-containing) item is in the house, there is always the possibility of it getting dropped and broken,” DNR spokesman Larry Archer said. “We want to rid homes of those items so that there is no danger of breakage.”
The DNR and the Health Department are asking anyone who wants to dispose of their items to first put them in two zip-top plastic bags and then place them in a sealed container, such as a coffee can or plastic margarine tub.
The department also asks citizens to call the drop-off site before taking mercury-containing items for disposal and to not leave the items if the facility is closed.
“The most important thing is that we want people to call ahead because we don’t want possibly broken bagged items brought into the building (due to risk of exposure),” said Gerry Worley, environmental health manager for the Health Department. “If you call ahead, we can have someone meet you at your car to take the items from you.”
The DNR will collect items from drop-off sites at the end of the month and transport them to Jefferson City, where they will be picked up by a state contractor for recycling and final disposal.
The statewide list of drop-off sites is available on the DNR Web site. Residents who are uncomfortable transporting mercury-containing items also can arrange to have them picked up by calling the department’s spill line at 634-2436.