Mercury in the Home

The following list represents some of the consumer products that contain mercury:

  • Batteries - Since 1994, federal law has limited the amount of mercury in button cell batteries (used in watches, hearing aids and calculators) and has prohibited intentional addition of mercury to standard household batteries (dry-cell sizes A, AA, C, D, etc.).
  • Detergents and disinfectants - Some bleach, detergents with bleach, stain removers and soaps also contain mercury. To be more aware, read product labels and try to purchase mercury-free alternatives.
  • Fluorescent bulbs - Mercury is used in long fluorescent bulbs, compact fluorescent bulbs, high-intensity discharge (HID) bulbs and other types of energy-efficient lighting. Some fluorescent bulb manufacturers have introduced "green tip" bulbs. These bulbs typically contain less mercury than standard fluorescent bulbs, but still should be recycled or disposed of properly.
  • Jewelry - There are some necklaces imported from Mexico that have a glass pendant that contains mercury. The pendants come in various shapes such as hearts, bottles, balls and chili peppers. Broken necklaces have resulted in mercury spills at schools.
  • Medicine - Mercury in the forms of phenylmercury acetate and ethylmercury has been used in fungicides, antiseptics or disinfectants. It also has been used in a variety of products. Most of these uses have been discontinued, but small amounts of these compounds can still be found as preservatives in some medicines. Some consumers are concerned about the use of thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative, in vaccines. Since 2001, with the exception of some flu vaccines, thimerosal is not used as a preservative in routinely recommended childhood vaccines. For more information on thimerosal in vaccines, please visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website. The FDA also provides a list of mercury-containing drugs, antibiotics and vaccines as well as the types and percentages of mercury ingredients in each of these products.
  • Paint - Mercury was used as a preservative, but its use in indoor and exterior paint was discontinued in 1991. Until recently, many water-based paints, including some interior paints, continued to use mercury as a fungicide. Visit for more information about indoor environmental concerns during remodeling.
  • Thermometers (fever, candy, deep fry, oven, indoor and outdoor) - Mercury is used in glass thermometers because it is sensitive to changes in temperature. Thermometers are one of the largest sources of mercury in municipal solid waste. The few drops of mercury found in a common fever thermometer can contaminate a large number of fish. Today, consumers can purchase accurate alternatives such as digital or alcohol thermometers.
  • Thermostats - Thermostats contain more than five times the amount of mercury found in a typical fever thermometer. If you replace a thermostat, recycle the old one (please see the Thermostat Recycling Web page for more information). Mercury-free electronic or digital thermostats are available as replacements.

Other products that may contain mercury include:

  • athletic shoes, toys and cards that light up
  • pilot lights in gas appliances such as stoves, water heaters, furnaces and dryers
  • older chemistry sets
  • switches found in some fire alarms, septic tanks, car trunks and hoods, pinball machines and automatic shut-off irons.

For more information, contact DHEC's Office of Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling at 1-800-768-7348.