Products that Contain Mercury
Mercury has been used in a variety of consumer and commercial products because it exhibits properties of both a metal and a liquid at room temperature, it is a good conductor of electricity, and it reacts precisely to temperature and pressure changes. Unfortunately, when these products are broken and the spilled mercury poured down the drain or when these products are disposed of in landfill sites, the mercury can become a part of the global mercury cycle. Mercury releases from products, as they break down in both active and closed landfills, may represent a significant pathway for the transport and eventual deposition of the toxin in various terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. For example, the amount of mercury contained in a typical fluorescent tube (approximately 20 milligrams) is sufficient to contaminate around 20 000 litres of water beyond Health Canada limits for safe drinking water (0.001 milligrams of mercury per litre of water). In general, mercury may be released directly to air when products are crushed at the landfill working face, as a trace component of landfill gas, which is generated during the decomposition of waste under anaerobic conditions, or in the liquid leachate flowing from the site.
It is important to ensure that mercury-containing products are disposed of properly in order to prevent the mercury from negatively affecting environmental and human health. For additional information about how to reduce releases of mercury into the environment, please visit the What Can I Do? page.
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