Elemental mercury is often a problem in middle and high schools. Most middle and high schools do not have programs or budgets that allow for proper storage and disposal of unwanted, unused or out-of-date chemicals. Many chemistry programs have used elemental mercury for educational purposes in the past (some schools used to pass out small amount of mercury for students to handle!), and many chemistry programs may have large, glass, mercury-containing thermometers and barometers. Lab thermometers contain 3-4 grams of mercury; barometers can contain 500 grams and both are easily broken. There are 130 schools in the Connecticut River Watershed; of those 130 there are 23 high schools. Of those 23, DES visited seven and removed over 85 lbs of mercury. (DES Schools Program)
|High Schools Visited||Pounds of Mercury|
|Fall Mountain Regional High School||22|
|Hanover High School||9|
|Littleton High School||14|
|Mascenic Regional High School||10|
|Stevens High School||13|
|Woodsville High School||17|
There are over 200 dentists in the Connecticut River Watershed. To fill cavities, many use "silver" amalgam, which contains 50 prercent mercury; about a half a gram per filling. Dentists now use small capsules of amalgam to make the amalgam, but previously used larger containers of elemental mercury to mix/create amalgam. DES suspects that some dentists still have old stores of elemental mercury in their offices, so we created a program to collect and recycle mercury at no cost to the dental practice. (Dental Program)
There are currently 188 commercial dairies in New Hampshire and many more small farms with dairy cows. Many older styles of automatic milking machines use manometers containing a pound of mercury each to control the air pressure. Minnesota estimated that about 20 percent of their dairies still use mercury manometers. DES partnered with the NH Department of Agriculture to work with dairies in state to encourage the proper handling and disposal of old and/or broken manometers, and to encourage the purchase of non-mercury manometers. A second aspect of the project is to work with the NH Department of Agriculture to locate closed dairies, contact them to determine if there are mercury manometers on site, and properly recycle any identified mercury devices. (Farms)
New Hampshire’s 400 maple sugar farms produce nearly 75,000 gallons of maple sugar each year. Because temperature control is crucial to making syrup from sap, producers use large, commercial mercury-containing thermometers to monitor the temperature of the sap as it boils. Maple sugar thermometers contain about 3 grams of mercury so this represents a significant source of mercury in New Hampshire. In 2006, DES partnered with the NH Department of Agriculture to provide an outreach program to educate maple sugar producers about the issue and to set up a "thermometer swap" to collect and recycle the mercury in old thermometers while providing a non-mercury alternative.
By law, all businesses in New Hampshire are required to dispose of their fluorescent lamps as hazardous waste or recycle them under New Hampshire’s Universal Waste Rule. Most small businesses, however, are unaware of this requirement and discard their spent lamps in the trash as solid waste, where the mercury may discharge to the air or groundwater. Small businesses that are aware of the regulations and would like to recycle their lamps may not have access to a cost effective collection and disposal or recycling system. Most lamp recyclers require a business to have a large number of lamps before they will perform a pickup and this is not practical for smaller facilities who only generate a dozen or so lamps per year. To provide a convenient recycling option for small businesses, DES teamed up with TrueValue Hardware stores who will collect and recycle small quantities of fluorescent bulbs from businesses. Small businesses can bring up to six bulbs to a participating TrueValue store and have them recycled free of charge. (TrueValue and Disposal Sites)
Most homeowners are unaware they have the potential to contribute mercury to the environment, yet most homes contain items that have mercury such as thermometers, thermostats, and/or fluorescent bulbs. Some homeowners even have containers of elemental mercury that pose a serious risk to family members and the environment. Homeowners are legally prohibited from throwing mercury and mercury-containing items in the trash, they must be properly disposed of. Compact fluorescent bulbs may be recycled at retail stores such as Lowe's, Home Depot and Aubuchon Hardware, certain restrictions may apply, contact your local store prior to drop-off. All mercury-containing items may be taken to a local transfer station that accepts these items (call ahead to make sure they will be accepted). Household hazardous waste (HHW) collection events are also an option. Unfortunately, these events, funded in part by grants from DES, do not exist in many towns, and the collections that do exist are often limited to once-a-year events in most locations, thus requiring homeowners to store spent and/or broken mercury-containing items for long periods of time. DES outreach activities educate homeowners about the hazards of mercury in their home and how to select non-mercury products. Homeowners who wish to properly recycle their fluorescent lamps and other mercury devices should first check with their local transfer station for disposal options. The Household Hazardous Waste home page has a list of HHW events and more information on this topic.
Almost all states, including New Hampshire, have freshwater fish advisories that recommend limiting the amount of freshwater fish a person eats due to contamination of mercury and other toxins in the fish. New Hampshire’s fish advisory recommends that women of childbearing age and children under six years of age limit their intake of freshwater fish to one meal per month, and that others limit their intake to one meal per week. Unfortunately, not everyone in New Hampshire is aware of the freshwater fish advisory. DES has recently received a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to improve our public outreach efforts, particularly the population most at risk (women of child bearing age, pregnant and lactating women, and young children) on the fish advisory.
Additionally, there are questions about the safety of eating saltwater fish. Certain species of fish such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish have been shown to contain concentrations of mercury above safe levels for consumption for women of childbearing age and young children. For all others DES suggests limiting consumption to two meals per month. DES includes information on saltwater fish along with freshwater fish in the New Hampshire fish advisory (NH Fish Advisory (Fact Sheet ARD-EHP-25)).
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