Mercury Product Laws and Regulations
Several laws have been enacted in Illinois that regulate mercury-containing
products by limiting or prohibiting mercury content in certain products.
The purpose of banning mercury-containing products is to eliminate non-essential
uses of mercury, thereby reducing the potential for mercury being released
during the production, use and disposal of products. These laws apply
to the following products:
Beginning July 1, 2004, the sale and distribution of mercury fever
thermometers is prohibited, including those provided in hospital
new baby gift packs. The law exempts mercury fever thermometers sold
to, or used in, a health care facility.
Products: Beginning July 1, 2004, no mercury-added novelties
may be sold or distributed for promotional purposes, unless the
mercury is solely within a button-cell battery or fluorescent light
bulb. Novelty items include toys, figurines, adornments, games,
cards, ornaments, yard statues and figurines, candles, jewelry,
holiday decorations, shoes and other items of apparel.
School Purchasing: Beginning July 1, 2005, the purchase or
acceptance of bulk mercury, mercury containing compounds and mercury-containing
instructional equipment for use in primary or secondary classrooms
is prohibited. An exemption is provided for mercury-containing
measuring devices used as teaching aids, if no adequate mercury-free
Switches and Relays: Beginning July 1, 2007, the selling, distribution,
or offer to sell or distribute mercury electrical switches and
relays is prohibited (with some exemptions). The law includes mercury
switches and relays sold individually or as a product component.
The law excludes switches and relays used in medical diagnostic
equipment regulated under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act; at electric
generating facilities; in thermostats to sense and control room
temperature; or required under federal law or federal contract
specifications. Also excluded are replacement switches and relays
for a product in use prior to July 1, 2007, if the larger product
is used in manufacturing, or the switch or relay is not physically
separate from other components in the larger product.
Mercury Devices: The sale and distribution of the following mercury containing devices are prohibited. The effective date is not the same for every product. The date prohibition started is noted for each device.
- barometers (July 1, 2008)
- esophageal dilators, bougie tubes, or gastrointestinal tubes (July 1, 2008)
- flow meters (July 1, 2008)
- hydrometers (July 1, 2008)
- hygrometers (July 1, 2008)
- manometers (July 1, 2008)
- pressure transducers (July 1, 2012)
- psychrometers (July 1, 2008)
- pyrometers (July 1, 2008)
- rings (July 1, 2012)
- seals (July 1, 2012)
- sensors (July 1, 2012)
- sphygmomanometers (July 1, 2008)
- thermometers (July 1, 2008)
- thermostats (July 1, 2008)
- zinc air button cell batteries (July 1, 2013)
- mercury wheel weights (January 1, 2012)
The law does not apply if use of the product is a federal requirement
or if the only mercury-added component in the product is a button
cell battery. Manufacturers of the above devices may apply for an
exemption from the law with the Illinois EPA.
Manufacturers of the devices listed above can petition the IL EPA for an exemption
from the sales and distribution bans. The IL EPA uses
applications created by the Interstate Mercury Education and Reduction
Clearinghouse (IMERC). The forms are to be used when petitioning other IMERC
member states for an exemption as well. The Illinois Pollution Control Board
regulations for applying for an exemption.
Beginning September 1, 2008, mercury switches must be removed from
vehicles prior to being crushed, flattened, or otherwise processed.
The switches must be properly recycled also. The IL EPA has developed
mercury auto switch removal information for vehicle crushers, vehicle
recyclers, and scrap metal processors.
Cosmetics: Mercury or mercury
salts may be used as an active ingredient in skin-lightening products
to “lighten” the complexion or to remove “blotchy” spots.
Investigations by the Chicago Tribune, as well as by public health
officials in California, Virginia and New York City, have found high
levels of mercury in skin-lightening creams made in China, Dominican
Republic, Hong Kong, India, Lebanon, Mexico, Pakistan and Taiwan.
Typically skin-lightening products commercially made in the United
States do not contain mercury.Home-made skin-lightening products
are more likely to contain mercury.
Beginning June 1, 2009, sale and distribution of cosmetics, toiletries,
or fragrances containing mercury is prohibited. Any person who knowingly
sells or distributes mercury-containing cosmetics, toiletries, or
fragrances in Illinois is guilty of a petty offense. A fact
sheet for retailers is available.
Mercury Thermostat Collection
and Recycling: On July 1, 2008, the State of Illinois joined
several other states in prohibiting the sale and distribution of
new mercury-switch thermostats that are used to activate heating
and cooling equipment in buildings. In 2010, the
Mercury Thermostat Collection Act was passed, requiring thermostat manufacturers
to establish collection programs for recycling mercury-switch thermostats when
they are taken out of service.
Lead and Mercury Wheel Weights and Balancers: Beginning
January 1, 2012, sale, distribution, and use of lead and mercury wheel weights
and balancers is prohibited. A fact sheet is available.
For information on mercury product laws and regulations in Illinois,
please contact Becky Jayne at
Illinois EPA submitted a report to
the Illinois General Assembly that includes recommendations for creating
a statewide program to reduce and recycle mercury components found in
end-of-life vehicles and thermostats used to control room temperature.
The report also contains recommendations for prohibiting the sale and
use of mercury-containing thermostats.
The Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association maintains a
of mercury reduction programs in the U.S. This database contains a listing
of both regulatory and non-regulatory programs.