Thankfully, there are very few hazardous substances with which residential consumers come into contact in the United States. A combination of regulation, safety measures, and standards of technology keep most safe. However, when certain household products are mishandled or disposed of improperly, they can lead to risks. Household lighting and electronics can contain mercury and other hazardous heavy metals: learn more about which to watch out for and how to handle them.
Mercury in Fluorescent Lighting
Mercury is in fluorescent lighting, most commonly tube lights or compact fluorescent lighting (CFLs), but also including high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps, ultraviolet lamps, and neon lighting. This lighting contains gasses that glow under current, and a vital part of that is small amounts of mercury.
Because of the fragile nature of this lighting and the hazardous substances within, care needs to be taken when handling and disposing of these lights. Do not dispose of in your home, and if fluorescent lighting breaks, follow the EPA’s instructions for cleaning them up.
Heavy Metals in Cathode Ray Tube TVs and Monitors
If you’ve got an old-fashioned large monitor or TV, it most likely uses a Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT). These monitors contain from 2 to 5 pounds of lead each! Beyond the hazard of the heavy metal, many CRT monitors can hold high-voltage charges for long periods of time that can discharge during dismantling.
Due to the hazards, including breaking of the tube, which can result in an implosion and then an explosion, make sure to handle and store with care. See our Fact Sheets for more details.
Heavy Metals and Mercury in Consumer Electronics
Mercury, along with the hazardous heavy metals of lead, beryllium, and cadmium, can be found in many household electronics that can make them dangerous if improperly disposed of. Some to keep in mind:
- Mercury Switches: Electronics, including laptop screen shutoffs, use mercury switches.
- Batteries: Besides containing acids and lithium, smaller batteries (like the button battery) can contain mercury.
- Thermostats and Thermometers: These may contain mercury, especially with older models.
- LCD Screens and Monitors: Liquid Crystal Displays can contain a small amount of mercury, including from fluorescent backlighting.
- Circuit Boards: May contain heavy metals, including lead, beryllium, and cadmium.
Many of these products may be banned from your local disposal facility, including CRTs. But we can help. NEDT’s Household Hazardous Products Collection Centers can help by providing quick and safe service for all your needs, including a pickup service! Contact us today to learn more, including what to bring in. You can also call us at 866-769-1621.