Mercury in Household Products

Mercury is found in many of the everyday items we use, from light bulbs to thermostats. You can properly dispose of all of these products at the Disposal of Toxics facility. In many cases you can switch to mercury-free alternatives.

Fluorescent Lamps

Mercury is used in the fluorescent-tube, compact fluorescent, and high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps. These light bulbs are very energy efficient, but they need to be disposed of properly at Disposal of Toxics.


Mercury’s sensitivity to temperature change makes it useful for thermometers. It is used in glass thermometers and can be easily identified by the presence of silver liquid. Digital thermometers are a mercury-free alternative.


Mercury is used in older thermostat switches that control temperature changes in heating and air conditioning systems. Newer, digital thermostats do not use mercury.

Automobile Switches
Mercury is used in vehicle mechanisms to turn on lights when the hood, trunk, or doors are opened, and/or to operate some anti-lock brake systems. Mercury-containing auto switches will be phased out of new cars in Washington State beginning January 1, 2006.


Mercury prevents internal discharge and gassing in batteries. Since 1994, federal law has prohibited intentional addition of mercury to standard household batteries (dry-cell sizes A, AA, C, D, etc.) and has limited the amount of mercury added to button cell batteries.