Enhancing Safety: Why We Are Removing Mercury Thermostats from California Homes

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

Contributed by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control

We all have a role in engaging stakeholders in mercury thermostat removal to keep our communities safe. I ask you, how many of the homes you manage still have mercury thermostats? This type of thermostat, once a common fixture, poses significant risks to human health and the environment. We will cover the risks of mercury thermostats, relevant legislation in California governing their safe disposal, and how to ensure their safe disposal to protect our residents and communities.

Understanding Mercury Thermostats

Mercury thermostats have long been utilized for temperature control in residential units. However, a few decades ago, we began to understand the risks of mercury thermostats inside peoples’ homes and communities. The potency of mercury is so great that just one gram is capable of polluting a 20-acre lake – and a single mercury thermostat contains around three grams of mercury. The damage such an event could cause to local wildlife and the health of surrounding communities is immense. When water becomes polluted with mercury, it results in the contamination of fish living in that water. Subsequently, when these fish are consumed by people, people ingest the mercury accumulation into their own bodies. Yet, another significant risk arises from the inhalation of mercury vapors, which can be released when a mercury thermostat breaks. Once inhaled, mercury can accumulate within the body over time, leading to a range of harmful health effects.

Adverse Effects of Mercury Contamination

Mercury exposure can have adverse neurological effects on humans. The potential effects include:

  • Neurological disorders, including memory loss, cognitive impairment, and developmental delays in children.
  • Cardiovascular system issues, leading to increased risks of heart disease and high blood pressure.
  • Kidney damage and dysfunction.
  • Inhalation of mercury vapors can result in respiratory problems, such as bronchitis and difficulty breathing.

As apartment managers, we have a responsibility to prioritize the well-being of our residents and mitigate potential risks associated with mercury thermostats. And by doing so, we not only take a proactive approach to the health of residents but also to the health of our own families and community.

California’s Legislative Actions

California has taken significant steps to address the hazards posed by mercury thermostats. Since 2006, the Mercury Thermostat Collection Act prohibited the sale of new mercury thermostats, so if you have installed thermostats prior to 2006, there is a good chance that it might be a mercury thermostat. Thermostat Care incentivizes California residents to safely dispose of mercury thermostats by offering a $30 mail-in rebate for each mercury thermostat safely disposed of at a Thermostat Care drop-off location.

Safe Removal and Disposal

Would you like to safely remove a mercury thermostat or instruct a contractor to do that? Here is a step-by-step guide:

  • Wearing protective gloves, carefully remove the thermostat from the wall and place it inside a sealed clear bag;
  • Download, print, and fill out the rebate form to receive a $30.00 mail-in rebate;
  • Place the form inside the bag alongside your thermostat;
  • Enter your zip code to find the closest drop-off location at thermostatcare.org/locations; and
  • Take your plastic bag containing the thermostat and rebate form to your closest drop-off location.

Upgrading to digital thermostats not only reduce the risk of mercury exposure but also enhances energy efficiency, leading to potential cost savings.

Keep Our Communities Safe

The removal of mercury thermostats from apartment complexes in the Greater Los Angeles Area is not only a matter of compliance and environmental responsibility, but also a smart decision for the community’s health and well-being. You should be proud to take action and help this mission of making California a safer place to all of us.

California’s Department of Toxic Substance Control’s Mission is to protect California’s people, communities, and environment from toxic substances, to enhance economic vitality by restoring contaminated land, and to compel manufacturers to make safer consumer products.