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 ECU Launches LiveSafe, a mobile safety app, today!


The Office of Environmental Health and Safety strongly urges departments to reduce the use of mercury and mercury containing devices, thereby eliminating ECU as a source of future environmental contamination. Mercury presents a persistent threat to the environment. It has been targeted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as one of the top Persistent Bio-accmulative Toxic (PBT) chemicals to be reduced on a global level. Elemental mercury spills have the potential to expose employees and students to hazardous mercury vapors and cause inconvenience through remediation. The typical household mercury thermometer contains enough mercury in it to contaminate a 20-acre fish pond.

Mercury-containing devices are used in many ECU departments. Mercury thermometers are commonly encountered, but other devices include manometers, sphygmomanometers, barometers, and electrical components containing mercury can also be found. They are easy to use, relatively inexpensive, accurate, and reliable. Unfortunately, they are also fragile, increasing the likelihood of a mercury release if the devise is broken. EH&S is providing the following recommendations and goals in reducing the use of mercury and mercury containing devices at ECU:

Sources of mercury that should be replaced with listed alternative devices as soon as financially possible:

  • Stand-alone mercury thermometer - replace with alcohol based thermometers or electronic temperature sensors for most uses, electronic digital thermometers in health care uses, and expansion or aneroid devices in high temperature ovens
  • Mercury-filled manometers - replace mercury with phthalate or other suitable liquid
  • Sphygmomanometers (used to measure blood pressure) - replace with electronic version
  • Mercury-filled McLeod gauges - replace with electronic version
  • Mercury-filled bubblers - replace with appropriate device such as check valves or non-mercury bubblers
  • Elemental mercury in storage - dispose under current campus procedures

Sources of mercury that should be replaced with listed alternative devices as soon as possible or at the end of service life:

  • Thermostats - replace with solid state electronic thermostat
  • Mercury-containing switches - replace with electronic solid state devices
  • Mercury batteries - replace with non-mercury zinc/air batteries (EH&S will pick up spent batteries for recycling)
  • Mercury-filled barometers - replace with non-mercury filled alternatives
  • Mercury diffusion pumps (which contain 7.5 lbs. of mercury) - replace with oil-filled pumps when possible
  • Devices with mercury thermometer as a component - replace with non-mercury bearing devices as applicable
  • Germicidal lamps - replace with non-mercury versions
  • Canton & Miller Abbott tubes (used in health sciences) - replace with tungsten tubing
  • Ignition tubes (rectifier) - replace with solid state alternatives
  • High-mercury florescent lamps and high intensity discharge lamps - replace with low-mercury versions

To reduce ECU's environmental impact, EH&S has set the following goals for East Carolina University to reduce mercury:

  1. Eliminate all sources of mercury from teaching labs.
  2. Eliminate mercury thermometers from all water baths and ovens.
  3. Achieve mercury-free status in the Brody School of Medicine, the School of Allied Health Sciences, and the College of Arts and Sciences.
  4. Reduce/replace the use of mercury devices to a feasible minimal levels within the Facilities Services Department.
  5. Total elimination of mercury unit purchases by all departments.

It will be each department's responsibility to replace mercury-containing thermometers. Each department should budget and plan for the funding necessary to purchase the mercury free alternatives. To assist with these replacements, Fisher Science Education, in conjunction with Ever Ready Thermometer Co., Inc. (ERTCO), is offering a program to help customers dispose of mercury thermometers presently in US schools. This program consists of the opportunity to trade in a mercury thermometer or sling psychrometer to be properly disposed of and reclaimed by ERTCO for each non-mercury thermometer or sling psychrometer purchased from Fisher Science Education. Information about this exchange program can be found at mercexchange.

For more information or questions, contact EH&S at 328-6166.