Mercury is Toxic

Mercury can damage human health and the environment. In humans, especially developing fetus or young children, mercury can permanently damage the nervous system. In aquatic systems, mercury can build up, or bioaccumulate, in fish or other organisms. It’s important to keep mercury out of Minnesota’s waters. Learn more about mercury at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Mercury page.

For advice on cleaning up a mercury spill, see the MPCA’s Cleaning Up Spilled Mercury in the Home fact sheet.

Residents Can Help

Mercury is phased out of retail products sold in Minnesota, but residents may find mercury-containing products in the home or even products sold illegally. Bring all mercury-containing products to the Household Hazardous Waste Facility for free disposal.

A few examples include:

  • Fluorescent tubes and bulbs, including CFLs: Recycle CFLs in the WLSSD
  • Button batteries from watches and hearing aids
  • Thermometers (silver liquid inside)
  • Thermostats and switches
  • Old latex and oil paints (manufactured before August 1990)
  • Chemistry sets, older toys and games
  • Skin lightening creams generally sold in import shops

Business & Industry Can Help

Mercury and mercury-containing devices may be found in older medical equipment, photo developing chemicals, laboratory preparations, switches and thermostats, and in dental amalgam. Businesses must dispose of all unwanted mercury-containing items through a licensed hazardous waste disposal contractor or use WLSSD’s Clean Shop services if eligible.

WLSSD has made great strides partnering with the North East District Dental Society of the Minnesota Dental Association to ensure area dentists are eliminating the release of mercury-containing dental amalgam by installing amalgam capture devices in the plumbing of area dental offices.

Blueprint for Mercury Elimination

WLSSD documented the pollution prevention strategies used to investigate and eliminate mercury inputs into wastewater in the Blueprint for Mercury Elimination. Thousands of copies of the Blueprint have been distributed throughout the United States and Canada.

There is no treatment method that can completely remove mercury from the wastewater. Pollution prevention is the best approach to achieving reductions in the release of mercury and other persistent toxic chemicals that do not break down in the environment.