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Mercury is a naturally occurring element found in the environment. It is a metal that can be found in 3 forms – elemental (metallic), organic, or inorganic.
Elemental mercury is a shiny, odorless, silver, liquid metal. This type of mercury is the elemental or “pure” form of the metal since it is not combined with other elements. It is very useful in a number of applications – thermometers, blood pressure cuffs, mercury vapor lamps, switches, pesticides, batteries, compact fluorescent bulbs, and even in dental fillings.
Organic mercury is mercury that combines with hydrogen and carbon to form a mercury compound. This form of mercury is ingested by microscopic bacteria living on the bottom of lakes and ponds. High levels of this mercury compound build up in the tissue of fish and can be harmful.
Inorganic mercury is mercury that combines with other elements, like chlorine, sulfur and oxygen, to form “salts”. These salts were used in old creams and ointments.
Dangers of Mercury Poisoning
Although only small amounts are typically present in the items listed above, mercury is a threat to human health if thrown in the trash or flushed down a sink. It can be absorbed through the skin, ingested and inhaled.
At room temperature, metallic mercury will produce harmful mercury vapors. Exposure to mercury can cause adverse health effects and can impact your immune system, vision, speech or hearing. It can even cause death.
Recycling of Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFLs)
Compact fluorescent light bulbs, those squiggly, energy-efficient lights otherwise known as CFLs, contain mercury and should always be properly recycled. Retailers such as Ace Hardware, Home Depot, Lowe’s Home Improvement, and TrueValue Hardware offer free recycling of CFLs. Simply take the expired, unbroken bulb to the store and place it in the proper recycling receptacle.
County residents are encouraged to take advantage of these free retailer programs rather than spending public dollars to dispose of these bulbs through the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste Management District’s Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Program.
Fluorescent Tube Bulbs
Residents of Cuyahoga County can recycle fluorescent tube bulbs (6 foot maximum length) in the County’s Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Program.
If you cannot wait for a free collection and have an immediate need to dispose of your bulbs, you can contact one of the companies listed on the Solid Waste District’s web site. Prices for disposal typically range from $0.65-$1.00 per bulb.
The Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District provides a free mercury disposal program for household mercury items. These items include mercury fever thermometers, thermostats, switches found in appliances, and liquid mercury.
While the amount of mercury in common household items is small, the cumulative effect is significant when thousands of these items end up in landfills or wastewater treatment facilities.
All county residents are encouraged to turn in any household items that contain mercury to the drop-off locations shown below.
Mercury should be triple-bagged in a sealed zip-lock bag, or sealed tightly in a plastic container prior to delivery. Drive carefully during transport.
Beachwood Fire Station
2700 Richmond Road
Drop-off Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
North Royalton Fire Station
7000 Royalton Road
North Royalton, 44133
Drop-off Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District
4747 East 49 Street
Cuyahoga Heights, 44125
Drop-off Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.