Elemental mercury (Hg), a liquid metal at room temperature with a silvery appearance, is a neurotoxic chemical that bio-accumulates in the environment. Mercury sometimes seems to have a singular fate in the laboratory, however, and that is to be inadvertently released, especially from a broken thermometer. These releases are difficult, time consuming, and expensive to clean-up. In an effort to reduce the number of mercury-containing devices at Columbia and prevent future inadvertent releases of mercury in the laboratory, EH&S has engaged the research community in a free mercury thermometer exchange program over the past 10+ years.
Throughout the life of the program, EH&S has offered National Institute of Standards (NIST) traceable, 12” partial immersion organic liquid-in-glass thermometers with a range of -20°C to +110°C and a ±1°C accuracy, in exchange for an intact mercury thermometer. EH&S also recognizes that some laboratory applications require the measurement of temperatures outside of that range, and now offers non-mercury alternatives with a maximum temperature range of +260°C, including jointed models, to promote the exchange of additional thermometers.
Throughout fall, 2014, EH&S personnel have been visiting laboratories on the Morningside and Medical Center campuses and have exchanged over 50 thermometers for non-mercury containing alternatives, many of which were exchanged as a result of the new offerings with extended temperature ranges. EH&S would like to extend a thank you to the research community for being partners in reducing the amount of mercury on campus and protecting our environment.
If you would like to exchange a mercury thermometer for a non-mercury alternative please contact your Research Safety Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (212) 854-8749 (Morningside) or (212) 305-6780 (Medical Center). Still not sure? If EH&S does not currently stock a thermometer suitable for exchange, just let us know and we will investigate non-mercury alternatives on a case-by-case basis. Mercury-free devices are available
through University-preferred laboratory supply vendors, as well - http:finance.columbia.edu/ purchasing-guide.
Have You Labeled It? by Augustine Ogbonnaya, Research Safety Specialist
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