Mercury is toxic
Mercury is very toxic. In fact, it is a neurotoxin, meaning that it harms the brain and nervous system. It is also linked to kidney and liver damage and possibly cancer. Children are especially at risk because their brains and bodies are still developing. Many health effects of mercury can be permanent.
Reducing exposure to mercury
Washington and other states have taken action to reduce the risk posed by exposure to mercury. Mercury is in some products that people come into contact with daily. In 2003, the Washington State Legislature passed the Mercury Education and Reduction Act (MERA). MERA bans the sale of some mercury-containing products, requires the labeling of mercury-containing light bulbs and lamps, and requires the removal of mercury from elementary and high schools. Repeat violators of MERA may be fined up to $5000 per violation.
Managing waste containing mercury
Businesses can manage mercury-containing equipment and lamps under simplified rules for managing dangerous waste referred to as the universal waste rules. These rules reduce record keeping and other requirements associated with managing these types of dangerous waste.
The Department of Ecology also administers an automotive mercury switch removal program. Many automobiles made before 2003 contain mercury switches or other mercury-containing equipment. If these items are not removed before the vehicle is recycled, the mercury they contain is released to the environment when the vehicle is shredded. This is why Ecology offers auto recyclers a bounty of up to $9 per mercury-containing component they remove and properly recycle.
Dentists must also take care to manage their mercury-containing dental waste. Dental offices in Washington State are required to use and maintain a dental amalgam separator.
Mercury Releases and Spills
Ecology's PBT Initiative
Mercury in Fish
Interstate Mercury Education & Reduction Clearinghouse
Information for Households
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