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City residents can trade in old mercury thermometers

Throughout the month of July, Cambridge residents may turn in their mercury thermometers at the Cambridge recycling drop-off center at 147 Hampshire St. and receive free digital or forehead thermometers supplied by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Thermometers may be exchanged during the recycling center's regular hours (Tuesday and Thursday from 4 to 7:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) More information on the exchange is available by contacting Patrick McInytre, the recycling drop-off center monitor, at 617-349-4876 or

A city ordinance prohibits the sale, manufacture and importation of mercury-containing thermometers and sphygmomanometers (blood pressure meters), as these devices are easily broken, which results in the release of toxic mercury. Mercury evaporates quickly, and vapors can also present a health problem if inhaled. The American Hospital Association is committed to elimination of mercury medical devices by 2005.

Other household devices containing mercury include old thermostats and fluorescent light bulbs. These items are also accepted at the recycling drop-off center.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on July 17, 2002.

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