Like most Canadians, you probably recycle your paper waste and compost your kitchen scraps. But when it comes to disposing of your thermostat, whether mercury-containing or electronic, chances are you’re tempted to throw it out with the rest of your garbage. In fact, you may not even realize that the thermostat hanging on your wall could contain toxic mercury (Hg).
If so, there are a few things you should know, like the potential hazards of having a mercury thermostat in your home and in the landfill, and how to safely and responsibly recycle your thermostat when the time comes to replace it.
Does my thermostat contain mercury?
To check if your thermostat contains mercury, remove the front plate and look inside (often toward the base of the unit). If you see a small glass vial or ampoule (switch) with a silvery liquid inside, it contains mercury.
Mercury thermostats were the standard for nearly 200 years, however they were last manufactured in the early 2000s. Newer digital and programmable electronic thermostats are designed to operate without mercury, while older thermostats can have as many as four (4) mercury switches, each containing up to 2.5 grams of mercury.
What are the hazards associated with mercury in thermostats?
It takes only 1 gram of mercury to contaminate an eight-hectare lake to the point of making the inhabiting fish unsafe for consumption for a year, due to this heavy metal’s persistent, bio accumulative and neurotoxic properties.
Direct exposure to mercury can cause neurological damage, behavioural problems, kidney, lung and digestive tract diseases and complications, which can prove fatal. Indirect mercury exposure, for example through eating contaminated fish, is particularly dangerous for expectant mothers and young children, inhibiting development of the brain and nervous system.
How To Responsibly Recycle Your Thermostat
Whether you’re getting rid of an old mercury-containing or electronic thermostat, the Thermostat Recovery Program (TRP) offers a fast, safe and easy option for responsible thermostat recycling Canada-wide.
For more consumer tips and information, visit HRAI’s Consumer Facebook Page.