Mercury Thermometer Exchange Program

Program Description

The Ohio State University Office of Environmental Health and Safety has developed a mercury thermometer recycling program to help eliminate mercury and its associated health and environmental hazards. The USEPA has identified mercury as one of their waste minimization priority chemicals, making the reduction of mercury a priority. The reduction in use of mercury is not only a U.S. priority, but is also an international priority. Other benefits include a reduction in costs associated with the cleanup and disposal of mercury and contaminated equipment, and less down time in research and teaching labs as spills are cleaned up. There is also a proposed legislative bill in Congress that would begin the process of mercury elimination and management nationwide. The Ohio State University is in a position to reduce or eliminate mercury prior to the implementation of federal mandates and supports the USEPA push to reduce mercury waste.

How does the recycling program work?

EHS will provide a one-for-one exchange of mercury thermometers for non-mercury thermometers. These non-mercury thermometers meet accuracy standards established by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Forms that indicate the number of thermometers for pick up and the selected replacement thermometers are submitted to EHS. The replacement thermometers are purchased by the recycling program and delivered. The exchange takes place and the mercury thermometers are packed and shipped for recycling. You or your department will not be billed for exchanging thermometers.

Tips On Thermometer Selection and Use

Understanding the different classifications of thermometers and how to use them is essential for accurate temperature measurements. The following information is provided to help promote accuracy and repeatability. 

Total Immersion Verses Partial Immersion Thermometers 
Total immersion thermometers indicate the actual temperature when the bulb and the entire liquid column are exposed to the temperature being measured. To permit reading, typically one inch or less of the liquid column should be exposed. These thermometers can also be totally submerged in liquid or placed in a freezer.

Partial immersion thermometers indicate the actual temperature when a specified portion of the stem is exposed to the temperature being measured. A partial immersion thermometer will usually have an inscription stating the required depth or a ring inscribed on the stem, which indicates the depth.
Note: total immersion thermometers can be used as partial immersion if correction factors are known and used to calculate the temperature.

Exchange Procedures

  1. Collect your mercury thermometers and determine which thermometers you would like to replace and which thermometers you no longer need.
  2. Go to the replacement thermometers document and select the compatible replacement thermometers. If you are unable to find a replacement, click on the Fisher link for other thermometers. For thermometers that do not have compatible non-mercury replacements, select Teflon coated thermometers listed on the Fisher Scientific website.
  3. Go to the Exchange Request Form, choose Research Safety/Biosafety and then Mercury Thermometer Exchange from the drop down menu and fill in the requested information.
  4. Once the form is completed, click the submit button to send to: Dorian Richards, Mercury Thermometer Recycling Program, Environmental Health and Safety

Once the replacement thermometers arrive, EHS will contact you to arrange delivery and pick up.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact Dorian Richards at 614-292-1284 or