Mercury in Medical Equipment

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Some blood pressure devices or sphygmomanometers, fever thermometers, and other specialized medical equipment contain mercury.

In King County, it is illegal for anyone to put mercury-containing products in the garbage, trash or “Red Bag” (biomedical waste).

Healthcare facilities and other businesses can dispose of mercury–containing products through a hazardous waste disposal or recycling company.

Residents can bring mercury thermometers to a household hazardous waste facility.

ThermometerThermometers with mercury

Some thermometers contain mercury. You can tell if a thermometer contains mercury if it has a silver bar that moves up and down with your temperature. If a mercury thermometer breaks, the mercury release can pose health risks. Use these instructions to clean up a broken mercury thermometer.

Use mercury-free thermometers

Prevent mercury spills – use mercury-free thermometers such as a digital thermometer. They are easier to read, faster and are as accurate as mercury thermometers. baby thermometer

Some digital thermometers use batteries that contain a very small amount of mercury; others are powered with solar cells.

Galinstan thermometers look similar to mercury thermometers, but they use a gallium-indium-tin alloy instead. 


medical equipmentSphygmomanometers measure blood pressure.

Many aneroid or electronic sphygmomanometers do not contain mercury. Using a mercury-free sphygmomanometer will reduce the risk of exposure to both patients and workers. Mercury-free sphygmomanometers also do not cause environmental contamination if they break or when they are disposed.

Preventing spills with lever locks

Clinics that use W.A. Baum’s #33 wall-mounted units can prevent breakage and expensive mercury spills by installing a lever lock at the top of the glass mercury cartridge tube. The lock prevents tampering with the cartridge release lever and accidental release of mercury. The lever locks are free from W.A. Baum Co. 888-281-6061 (toll free) or

Other Medical Equipment

Esophageal dilators - Some esophageal dilators contain mercury. Use mercury-free water and tungsten-filled dilators instead.

Gastrointestinal tubes - Some gastrointestinal tubes contain mercury, including Abbott-Miller, Sengstaken-Blakemore, and Cantor tubes. Use mercury-freetungsten-weighted tubes instead.


"Comparing Mercury and Aneroid Sphygmomanometers" (Sustainable Hospitals) concludes that aneroid sphygmomanometers are just as accurate and reliable, easier to use, the same cost and pose significantly less environmental risk than mercury-containing instruments.