EPA Encourages Use of Mercury-Free Alternatives

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is going notifying the nation that there are alternatives to mercury in a number of products. According to a just-released preliminary assessment of the uses of elemental mercury, EPA has concluded that products in which mercury has traditionally been used--products such as switches, relays, button-cell batteries, non-fever thermometers, and even thermostats--do not have to contain mercury.

Under the Chemical Assessment and Management Program, EPA evaluated the use of elemental mercury in certain products and the availability of effective, economical mercury-free alternatives. The assessment determined that the use of mercury in certain products poses a "high-priority, special concern." The agency plans to take prompt regulatory and voluntary action to encourage the use of mercury-free alternatives and reduce the use of mercury in products.

EPA also has developed a searchable database that pulls together publicly available information from various sources to help identify consumer and commercial products that contain mercury and their possible non-mercury alternatives. The agency encourages people to use non-mercury alternatives whenever possible as an important way to prevent exposure to mercury, including exposure due to breakage. For more information on the mercury assessment, see www.epa.gov/chemrtk/hpvis/index.html. For more information on the database, see www.epa.gov/mercury/database.htm.

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