County collecting thermometers
Garfield County along with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has embarked on a campaign to collect mercury fever thermometers and safely dispose of them.Mercury thermometers can be taken to the public health offices in Glenwood Springs, at 2014 Blake Ave. and Rifle, at 195 W. 14th St. and exchanged for free digital thermometers.Mercury is a highly toxic metal that can cause brain, nerve and kidney damage in adults and children.According to the CDPHE, thermometers are some of the leading contributors of mercury to landfills. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated in 2000 that 17 tons of mercury entered landfills from thermometers alone.”Another concern is elemental mercury, which gets converted into ethylmercury in the environment through contact with bacteria,” said Jim Rada, environmental health manager for Garfield County. “It’s much more toxic and can also concentrate in the food chain,” notably in fish.When they’re used correctly mercury thermometers do not pose a health hazard. But when they break the silver drops that spill out are hard to clean up and give off dangerous levels of mercury vapor that can be inhaled.Mercury thermometers contain a silver or gray-colored liquid. Thermometers with red liquid contain mineral spirits or alcohol and are not hazardous.The collection program, which will continue through July, aims to lessen people’s exposure to mercury at home and reduce mercury pollution in the environment. It is also meant to educate people about the hazards associated with mercury, Rada said.Mesa, Eagle and Pitkin counties are also participating in the campaign. Garfield County residents who work in those counties can contact local environmental health office for information on drop-off locations.Rada also said that only thermometers will be accepted for recycling during the campaign.”Thermostats, switches, gauges, mercury vapor lights, hearing aid and watch batteries and children’s shoes with flashers in the soles all contain mercury but cannot be accepted as part of this recycling program,” he said.While those things are not an immediate hazard, they should be disposed of properly through a local household hazardous waste program.Rada also urges people not to buy products that contain mercury.”Digital thermometers and rechargeable batteries do not contain mercury and as a result, are much better choices environmentally,” he said.For more information, go to the Mercury-Free Colorado Web site at http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hm/mercury, or call 303-692-3320 or 1-888-569-1831, ext. 3320 toll free.
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