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Get Mercury Out of the Environment!

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Keep Me Mercury Free! (photo courtesy VA Sierra Club)

Mercury is a dangerous toxin that can cause permanent damage to the brain and kidneys. The most common way for people to be exposed is through eating mercury contaminated fish. Mercury exposure is especially hazardous to pregnant women, infants and young children. Many people associate mercury pollution with coal-burning power plants. But another source -- which may be in your home or office -- is a surprisingly large contributor to the problem.

Many older thermostats contain about four grams of mercury each, or about a thimbleful. That's eight times the average amount of mercury found in a mercury fever thermometer. Fluorescent light bulbs also contain mercury. The bulbs have much smaller amounts but there are a lot of them and it adds up! Properly collected, this mercury can be retrieved and carefully disposed of. But the vast majority of mercury thermostats and light bulbs are not. In fact, in 2011, only 2.5% mercury thermostats were properly disposed of through existing voluntary collection programs. In 2009 only a third of spent mercury light bulbs were recycled. This means that the vast majority of the discarded thermostats and light bulbs are being sent to landfills and incinerators.

Fortunately, state lawmakers have recognized the need to dramatically strengthen these collection programs. Bills have been introduced in the legislature that would require the manufacturers of mercury-containing thermostats to establish collection programs for out-of-service units. But unfortunately, mercury-polluters have successfully advanced a weaker bill, which creates hollow voluntary programs that haven’t worked elsewhere and most assuredly won’t work here. 

We need a robust and effective mercury collection program that would:

  • Have manufacturers take responsibility for keeping the products out of the trash.
  • Establish widespread collection points where thermostats and lamps can be conveniently returned.
  • Set collection goals that gradually increase over time.
  • Provide a financial incentive, or bounty, to encourage greater participation.
  • Create education and outreach programs informing contractors and the public about how to participate.
  • Give state agencies the authority to change the program if collection targets are not met. 


  • Your State Senator or Senators
  • Your State Representative or Representatives


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Please Pass Legislation to Keep Mercury Out of the Trash

Dear [Decision Maker],

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]