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New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Frequently Asked Questions
Mercury in Schools
  • Our school science laboratory has mercury compounds (mercuric oxide, mercuric nitrate and mercurous nitrate) that have been used in chemistry experiments. I am familiar with the adverse environmental and health effects of mercury. Should we still be using these compounds in our school?
    Effective January 1, 2001 Adobe Acrobat Reader Symbol, no school in New Hampshire is allowed to use or purchase elemental mercury, mercury compounds, or mercury-added instructional equipment and materials in grades K-12, except measuring devices and thermometers for which no adequate substitutes exist. Unfortunately, Chapter 278, Laws of 2000, which specifies these requirements, does not fund the removal of mercury products from a school. Therefore, it is up to each individual school to pay for the costs associated with removing mercury compounds from their classrooms and laboratories.
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  • I am a school custodian and I have been throwing our spent fluorescent bulbs in the trash. I was unaware that fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, and that our school should have been recycling fluorescent bulbs. How can I start a fluorescent bulb-recycling program at our school?
    Fluorescent light bulbs, even the green tip bulbs, contain a small amount of mercury that could pose a threat to human health and the environment when improperly managed. The bulbs meet the definition of a universal waste, under the NH Hazardous Waste Rules. The NHDES fact sheet Universal Waste Lamps: Management Requirements for Handlers and Transporters Adobe Acrobat Reader Symboloutlines the requirements for managing and recycling fluorescent light bulbs. The bulbs should be stored in upright containers and clearly labeled "Universal Waste – Lamps for Recycling."
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  • I noticed our school nurse is using a blood pressure measuring device that contains mercury. I thought mercury-containing devices were not allowed for use in school nurses’ offices.
    As previously stated, Chapter 278, Laws of 2000, only addressed the prohibited use of mercury compounds and mercury-containing devices in classrooms, and did not address mercury-containing devices that may be used in school health offices or in building materials (thermostats, switches, relays, etc.). However, most of the school nurses’ offices NHPPP has visited are not using mercury-containing devices. These devices have been stored away in drawers, and often the school nurse is unaware of how to dispose of them. These mercury-containing devices can be collected for recycling along with the school’s fluorescent light bulbs. Schools should remember that the costs associated with a mercury spill far outweigh any advantage from storing or using the device.
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NH Department of Environmental Services | 29 Hazen Drive | PO Box 95 | Concord, NH 03302-0095
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