Phase-out at fever pitch

Published: Wednesday 31 July 2002

-- Trade a new thermometer for an old one. This is the message that a bill approved by the US senate seeks to give. While it bans mercury thermometers, it has provided US $20 million for the exchange programme.

There is one gramme of mercury in a traditional fever-measuring device. However, this little quantity is enough to pollute an eight-hectare lake. The mercury particles eventually settle in waterways and are eaten by fish, from where they move up the food chain.

On being broken, a mercury thermometer forms minuscule droplets that release vapours which are detrimental to the human nervous system.

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