From: NRDC
Published January 15, 2014 07:51 AM

The problem with older thermostats - Mercury

NRDC Study Shows More Than 1.8 Million Thermostats Containing 8 Tons of Mercury Need Safe Recycling In Illinois.

The state should raise collection goals for mercury-laden thermostats to avoid contaminating the environment.

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There are more than 1.8 million thermostats containing eight tons of mercury in Illinois homes and buildings, according to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Clean Water Fund, which are calling for stronger state rules this year to speed up safe recycling of these thermostats.

"Illinois has an important opportunity to safeguard the public from a little-known hazard. Few realize that most round or square thermostats - installed before the digital age - contain mercury," said David Lennett, senior attorney in NRDC's health program. "Stronger standards are needed in Illinois to ensure that when contractors or homeowners remove these thermostats, the mercury is properly recycled, rather than tossed in the trash where it can pollute our air, land and water."

Mercury, a powerful neurotoxin, can cause damage to the human brain, kidneys and nervous system, and is of particular concern for pregnant women and children due to its effects on childhood development. For most people, the main source of exposure to mercury is through fish consumption where it is concentrated through the food chain. Illinois has a statewide fish advisory in effect for all predatory fish, intended to protect pregnant woman and children under15 years of age.

NRDC and the Clean Water Fund released the study today that shows 1.86 million thermostats in use in Illinois contain mercury; this is about one-fourth of the total 7.7 million thermostats on walls in the state. Each mercury thermostat carries, on average, four grams of mercury in one or more switches within the thermostat. That means Illinois thermostats collectively contain more than eight tons of mercury.

Photo of thermostat showing mercury - containing switch via state of Utah.

Read more at NRDC.

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