Kids Corner

Are Mercury Thermometers Harmful for Children?


What you should Know about Mercury Thermometers?

The small silvery ball in a mercury thermometer can be dangerous if the glass breaks and the mercury is not cleaned up properly. The mercury will evaporate and can contaminate the surrounding air and become toxic to humans and wildlife. Each thermometer contains about .5-1.5 grams of mercury. One gram of mercury can contaminate a 20 acre lake, enough to cause a public advisory to be issued on the potential dangers of eating fish caught in that lake. To prevent possible contamination, stop using your mercury thermometer. Get a new, safer type of thermometer.

Safe Thermometers

There are several alternatives to mercury thermometers:
« Digital thermometers
« Glass gallium-tin thermometers
« Glass alcohol thermometers
These non-mercury fever thermometers are just as good as mercury thermometers and much safer.

Danger of Mercury

Mercury is a very dense element that is the only metal to exist as a liquid at room temperature. It has a high electrical conductivity and it expands and contracts evenly with changes in temperature.

What do if Mercury Bulb Breaks?

Mercury is toxic to living organisms, including you and your family when mercury is released, it turns into a vapor in the air and eventually comes back to the earth. It often will accumulate in rivers and contaminate fish, leading to higher risk of exposure to mercury for people who eat fish

Some tips for cleaning up (Do’s)

«Ventilate the room by opening the windows, for example – leave them open for at least 15 minutes .
«Go out of the room while it's being ventilated, making sure children and pets are kept out.
«Wear rubber or plastic gloves and change into some old clothes before cleaning up the mercury beads and broken glass.
«Pick up the pieces of glass carefully and put them in a plastic bag or container.
«Collect the spilled mercury beads using a thin piece of card or a strip of masking tape – you can also use an empty plastic bottle to suck them up, such as an empty washing-up liquid bottle.
«Mercury beads reflect light, so you can use a torch to look for any beads that are difficult to spot.
«Put the card (or bottle) and the mercury beads into the plastic bag.
«Wipe the area with a damp cloth, then put the cloth in the same bag and seal it.
«Leave the room to ventilate for at least 24 hours after cleaning the spill.


«Don't put the sealed bag in your household bin, as mercury is classed as hazardous waste.
«Don't touch the mercury with your bare hands.
«Don't use a vacuum cleaner.
«Try not to create dust – if there is any dust, avoid breathing it in.
«Don't put the mercury down the sink or the drain.
«Don't sweep the mercury up with a brush.
«Don't wash clothes with mercury on them in a washing machine – dispose of them in a sealed bag.

Symptoms of Mercury poisoning

«Chest pains, a tight chest or a burning feeling in your chest
«Shaking (tremor )
«Coughing up blood
«Breathing difficulties

Mercury poses a particular threat to:

§Pregnant women - Mercury can be passed on to the baby through the placenta or when breastfeeding. It can affect the developing fetus by stopping the brain and nervous system from properly functioning.

§Young Children - Children affected by mercury show lowered intelligence, impaired hearing and poor coordination. Long term exposure causes symptoms to increase and to worsen, possibly resulting in personality changes and even coma.