UC Berkeley News


Campus thermometer exchange begins Sept. 20

09 September 2004

In honor of National Pollution Prevention Week, the Berkeley campus, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, and the City of Berkeley are inviting members of the community to exchange their mercury thermometers for a free digital replacement.

The exchange will take place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday, Sept. 20 through Friday, Oct. 1 at the Cal Student Store (Bancroft Way at Telegraph Ave.). Bring in mercury fever thermometers in their original cases or inside two sealed plastic bags (such as Ziploc). There is a limit of one free digital thermometer per household, though no limit on how many mercury thermometers you may turn in. By trading in your mercury thermometer for proper disposal, you help keep this mercury from eventually polluting San Francisco Bay.

Mercury is a toxic metal that can pose serious health risks; long-term exposure may lead to serious neurological damage or death. A common mode of exposure is via inhalation of vapors or skin absorption due to improper spill clean-up.

If you spill mercury, immediately remove children from the area, open the windows, and collect the mercury beads using two pieces of paper or an eye dropper. Place the mercury beads and any contaminated items inside two sealable plastic sealable bags. Do not vacuum, apply cleaning products, or use rags, as this will spread the contamination. Contact your local health department for additional advice.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, mercury is one of the six most serious pollution threats to the planet, as mercury from household and commercial sources pollutes waterways, such as San Francisco Bay, where it contaminates fish and their animal predators. The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment provides advisory information on how much fish can be eaten safely from local waterways.

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