Old thermometers pose new problems | Science News



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Old thermometers pose new problems

12:51pm, June 4, 2002

For decades, mothers checked their children for fevers by using a fragile glass stick filled with a silvery liquid. Formerly a medicine-cabinet staple, these mercury thermometers have lately been ruled a public health hazard. If broken, they release mercury, a poison that vaporizes and can then be inhaled. Last year, an American Academy of Pediatrics report designated mercury a major environmental toxicant that "should not be present in the home or other environments of children." It explicitly identified old fever thermometers as a source. Newer thermometers use nontoxic heat sensors.

Now, there's another problem. According to a new study, people are getting bum advice from government agencies on how to dispose of their mercury thermometers.

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