When the tool is placed outdoors or in the body, the metal tip heats and mercury stretches along the length of hollow space within the tube. Using mercury thermometers is … A slight amount of mercury is placed into the base of the thermometer, and as heat warms the base of the thermometer, it increases the mercury level, pushing it up a narrow tube so we can physically read the increase on the thermometer; however, at a slow pace. EPA has launched an effort to reduce the use of mercury-filled non-fever thermometers used in industrial settings where suitable alternatives exist. The basic concept of each different type of thermometer is the same, but the style differs. But, in fact, a crashed thermometer with correct and well-adjusted actions is nothing more than an unpleasant situation that can be resolved on its own. There are four broad categories of thermometers to be aware of: The mercury will evaporate and can contaminate the surrounding air and become toxic to humans and wildlife. If you break a thermometer while using it or if you improperly dispose of it, the thermometer will release mercury vapors that are harmful to human and ecological health. Thermometers use a variety of technologies to measure body temperature. Mercury can be toxic if consumed, and it can also cause skin and eye damage if touched or respiratory distress if inhaled. Some of these thermometers do not have replaceable batteries. Some of them will deliver temperature readings within two to three seconds rather than forcing you to wait for almost a minute as with other consumer grade digital thermometers. It’s dangerous if a mercury thermometer shatters on the ground since mercury is toxic. With the strips you stick on you no longer have to worry about any of that. The accuracy of alcohol thermometers is less than mercury thermometers as alcohols are more prone towards evaporation, capillary separation and, polymerization potential, whereas the measurement of mercury thermometer is more accurate as mercury is susceptible to sufficient expansion to observation regarding temperature changes from 0.1° which helps graduate the thermometer. It’s enclosed in an airtight capillary. If you have a mercury thermometer in your home and you want to get rid of it, you need to safely dispose of it as hazardous waste. You can use Earth911's Recycling Locator Exit to find a mercury recycling center near you. Mercury thermometer (mercury-in-glass thermometer) for measurement of room temperature. A maximum mercury-style thermometer works in much the same way as the standard version, but the mercury does not shrink back into the tip when removed from a heat source. Contact Us to ask a question, provide feedback, or report a problem. United States Environmental Protection Agency. The small silvery ball in a mercury thermometer can be dangerous if the glass breaks and the mercury is not cleaned up properly. These are similar to mercury thermometers in both price and use. If there is no liquid in your thermometer, for example, if it uses a metallic strip or coil to measure temperature (like most meat thermometers do), it is not a mercury thermometer. If the liquid in the thermometer bulb is any color other than silver, it is not a mercury thermometer. As part of a partnership EPA developed with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), NIST no longer provides calibration services for mercury thermometers. polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) waste disposal. Mercury is one of the most familiar materials used in liquid thermometers. I have always preferred mercury thermometers because of how easy they are to use. A laboratory thermometer is recognizable by its long stem with a silver bulb at the end. Mercury is a liquid metal that has been used in thermometers for many years, but it is toxic if swallowed or inhaled. Thallium reduces the freezing point to -78°F (-61.1°C). There are usually a number of different options and models available depending on the intended use. They are common in many households, schools and medical facilities. Just the same, due to the dangers associated with mercury poisoning, many countries around the world, most notably in Europe, have banned mercury-based thermometers for medical use. The digital thermometer is not only faster on … Mercury-driven thermometers may also be used by meteorologists to measure air temperature. Many of these tools are used in medicine and around the home to gauge body temperature, though they can also be used outside and in more professional meteorological situations. Then when I got a little bit older digital thermometers came out and we replaced our mercury thermometer. Mercury thermometers may be used in many applications, including chemical experiments, water and acid baths, blood banks, ovens and incubators. The disposable "hat" of an ear thermometer can be replaced, and do not need to be soaked and disinfected. In a thermometer, the color helps determine the type of liquid. However, they present many safety and environmental hazards. I know mercury thermometers are still alive and well in science classes! Mercury thermometer is a type of thermometer that uses a bulb filled with mercury as the temperature sensor. Standard mercury freezes at -37.89°F (-38.83°C). Until recently 260° C was the typical limit for non-mercury thermometers. He then developed a system of calibration to create a scale for easy reading. This thermometer is a thin glass tube with a silver tip and line inside. Glass Oral Temperature for Fever Test, Oral Temperature for Adult or Baby, Rectal Axillar Temperatur… Metal is usually regarded as a good conductor of heat, and Fahrenheit noticed that when that tip was placed into liquids of varying temperatures, the mercury rose and fell in the glass chamber. I am not sure if it was just the brand that was being used on us at work, but it never got a reading correct without multiple tries, and even that final reading was questionable. If you are choosing a battery-powered digital thermometer, choose one that contains a replaceable battery. Due to these facts, it is also obviously a substance that is difficult to clean up if ti spills. Mercury expands as the temperature increases, thus raising the reading, while decreasing temperatures contract the mercury, lowering the reading. Metallic mercury in its liquid state is relatively harmless when confined. It is obvious that when the mercury thermometer is broken - it's a disaster, since the impact of mercury on the stems and develops into small … The mercury thermometer is a classic design for temperature measurement still used by many families. That mercury was secured in a metal tip. There are a number of different model types, sizes, and specifications, but the general operating principle is about the same in all cases. The alternative to the mercury thermometer is the digital thermometer, which measures temperature by monitoring changes in electrical properties voltage and resistance of metals inside the device. This thermometer can measure temperatures in the ranges of -30 to +300 ° C . Although many people commonly associate thermometers with a mercury filling, the dangerous properties of mercury have spurred manufacturers to use other liquids inside the glass gauges. For daily use, despite prices, a digital thermometer is the best choice. I remember when I was very little we used a mercury thermometer and my mom always warned us to be very careful with them. In some instances they’re also used in kitchens, usually as a way of monitoring warm liquids, but most modern chefs prefer more food-specific gauges. Secure the bag and label it as directed by your local health or fire department. Other liquids, such as kerosene or ethanol , may also be used in these types of thermometers. The silver tip and line is mercury. An exception is on the high end of the temperature scale. The most similar alternatives to mercury fever thermometers are battery- and solar-powered digital thermometers. Thick glass generally encases the temperature-sensitive liquid metal. I'm pretty sure I remember when they started phasing out mercury thermometers for at home use. The oldest technology is the mercury-in-glass thermometer. I know the hospitals use some digital ear thermometers that are supposed to be rated very high for accuracy, and as a consumer you can buy these models yourself. The accuracy of a mercury thermometer varies depending on many thing. These sorts of thermometers are most commonly used in medicine and meteorology. At least 13 states -- California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Oregon, and Washington -- have passed such laws. Mercury thermometers can be used to determine body, liquid, and vapor temperature. They are painless to use and disposable so you don’t have to worry about cleaning anything. Mercury thermometers are no longer recommended because they can break and allow mercury — which is toxic — to escape. Mercury is a neurotoxin, and if you are exposed to it outside of its typical glass thermometer tube, it can cause you to go deaf, experience tremors, memory loss, and partial blindness, among other awful permanent side effects. These thermometers work exactly like bandages and you stick it to your child's skin for a few moments and it gives you a temperature reading. Broad categories of reasonably priced thermometers. Some states and municipalities have passed laws or ordinances barring the manufacture, sale and/or distribution of mercury fever thermometers. I think you can get them for under $50. Mercury thermometers tend to be much more durable under duress. Mercury fever thermometers are made of glass the size of a straw, with a silvery-white liquid inside. Spilled mercury can be very challenging to clean, since the loose liquid often forms rounded “balls” that can bounce and scatter across a floor or room. Common household uses of mercury thermometers include fever thermometers and oven, candy and meat thermometers. The Health Care Without Harm website presents information on specific state laws, resolutions and declarations.Exit. The mercury in mercury thermometers is poisonous if the thermometer breaks. It is also known as mercury-in-glass thermometer. In the past, mercury (MER-kure-e) thermometers were used. This has led some people to question the wisdom of having mercury so readily accessible in homes. A mercury thermometer is a tool used to measure temperature. A variety of accurate and reliable mercury-free fever thermometers are available at your local pharmacy. Place all broken objects on a paper towel. A mercury thermometer is a tool used to measure temperature. This allows temperature readings to be kept until mercury is forced back into the tip by centrifugal force, or shaking the thermometer with the head pointed toward the floor. There are non-mercury thermometers with temperature and accuracy ranges equal to most mercury thermometers. An official website of the United States government. @allenJo - Ask your doctor what medical thermometer they use. Mercury, which is also sometimes known as quicksilver, is a silvery liquid that responds very well to atmospheric changes, particularly temperature and barometric pressure. Maybe I’m not using it properly, I don’t know. Mercury thermometers are inexpensive, durable and accurate. If there are any broken pieces of glass or sharp objects, pick them up with care. I really loved the idea of plastic strip thermometers because with mercury thermometers I was always worried about my children dropping the glass vial and breaking it. Fold the paper towel and place in a zip locking bag. A thermometer is a device that measures temperature or a temperature gradient (the degree of hotness or coldness of an object). If you do have a mercury thermometer just make sure to wipe it off with a new alcohol swab after each use so you can disinfect it. This is to help remove the threat of thermometer breakage and the subsequent release of mercury vapor indoors. If you have children and they are scared of having their temperature taken in a traditional method you can buy nifty plastic strip thermometers. If mercury freezes, nitrogen can be caught behind the metal causing the thermometer to stop working. You should choose a thermometer that is easy to use and read. Mercury thermometers are used in households, laboratory experiments, and industrial applications. Glass Oral Temperature for Fever Test, Oral Temperature for Adult or Baby, Rectal Axillar Temperatur… If you have a mercury thermometer, don't throw it in the trash. View a list of the updated ASTM standards. Most modern thermometers are made of much stronger glass then their original counterparts, and the amount of mercury contained in each is quite low in any event. I have found that the digital thermometers that you press against your forehead are absolutely terrible. I think as long as you are careful there is no need to drop $50 or more on a digital thermometer. High thermal conductivity, high sensitivity to temperature, and good visibility make mercury the best for liquid-filled Thermometers. Within the confines of the thermometer there isn’t usually any safety risk, but should the glass break, exposure is likely. With changes in temperature, the mercury expands and contracts, and the temperature can be read from the scale. It is at the bottom and is cylindrical or spherical depending on the artifact. The bulb is the basis of mercury thermometers. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that the use of mercury thermometers be avoided and that existing mercury thermometers be properly retired. Noun 1. mercury thermometer - thermometer consisting of mercury contained in a bulb at the bottom of a graduated sealed glass capillary tube marked in degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit; mercury expands with a rise in temperature causing a thin thread of mercury to rise in the tube First of all, if the thermometer broke, we recall its physical properties and … Like everything else electronic I remember digital thermometers used to be a little bit more expensive than they are currently! The silver color in the bulb normally indicates the presence of mercury. Mercury is a toxic and hazardous chemical. A maximum thermometer is a medical mercury-in-glass thermometer that features a carefully designed restriction in the mercury column directly ahead of the reservoir bulb. In a mercury thermometer, a glass tube is filled with mercury and a standard temperature scale is marked on the tube. Better accuracy for temperature measurement results. The battery is a button-cell battery and may contain a small amount of mercury, so it should be recycled with a hazardous waste collection program. Mercury, which is a chemical element, rises and falls in response to temperature changes, and watching where it stops along the scale provides a reading of how hot or cold a particular substance is. Mercury thermometers can withstand boiling and freezing temperatures, while digital thermometers may break in extreme conditions. I remember using them in every lab science class I ever took in high school and college. There are a number of different model types, sizes, and specifications, but the general operating principle is about the same in all cases. Learn more about how to tell if there is mercury in your fever thermometer. The mercury-in-glass or mercury thermometer was invented by physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit in Amsterdam (1714). I know that the ear thermometer has become the instrument of choice as physicians got away from the more invasive rectal thermometer, but I wonder if the they are as effective as they claim to be. Most modern models work this way, and though advancements have been made in terms of presentation the basics are usually about the same. Out of all the liquid-filled Thermometers, the mercury-filled ones are the most accurate. It consists of a bulb containing mercury attached to a glass tube of narrow diameter; the volume of mercury in the tube is much less than the volume in the bulb. The ear thermometer is cleaner and less invasive than an oral thermometer, which is what it has going for it, but if I can’t be sure that the temperature is accurate it’s not much use. Everyone knows that mercury is one of the most powerful poisons, thus, have toxicity even mercury vapor. Collectible mercury thermometers on eBay come in many shapes, sizes, and transduction methods. @SZapper - I remember when the digital thermometers for at home use came out too. Mercury thermometer is a glass thermometer filled with mercury as the measuring liquid. It is also difficult to purchase mercury thermometers for home use in many of these countries. I remember they did always remind us to be careful and not to drop them. At home I’ve taken different temperature readings when using the ear thermometer and got different results each time, usually off by a degree or two – sometimes within the same hour. In order to measure temperatures below this point, meteorologists will often mix mercury with thallium alloy. Mercury thermometers are designed utilizing the idea that mercury expands with heat. In a mercury thermometer, a glass tube is filled with mercury and a standard temperature scale is marked on the tube. Most people use the word “accuracy” loosely, lumping in lots of meanings that are not technically included and would be better stated as “overall accuracy”. You can read more about the impact the decision will have in NIST’s February 2011 press release announcing the change. The functionality of the bulb is to store the mercury and is usually made of stainless steel, but can be made of glass as well. The space above the mercury may be filled with nitrogengas or it may b… The mercury filled bulb is connected to a glass tube which has a capillary tube inside it. There are two general types of mercury thermometers that measure body temperature: Alternatives to mercury fever thermometers, Cleanup and disposal after breaking a thermometer, Learn more about how to tell if there is mercury in your fever thermometer, NIST’s February 2011 press release announcing the change, final rule incorporating updated ASTM International (ASTM) standards into EPA regulations (PDF), View a list of the updated ASTM standards, Phasing Out of Mercury Thermometers Used in Industrial and Laboratory Settings page, specific state laws, resolutions and declarations, What to do when a mercury fever thermometer breaks/spills, How to recycle and dispose of mercury products, Oral/rectal/baby thermometers, containing about 0.61 grams of mercury, Basal temperature thermometers (used to track slight changes in body temperature), containing about 2.25 grams of mercury. To date, multiple ASTM standards have been updated to approve the use of mercury-free alternatives for temperature measurement. Most thermometers hold between 0.02 ounces (0.5 g) and 0.1 ounces (3 g) of mercury. Newer technologies include non-mercury liquids-in-glass as well as digital and electronic devices that use sensors to measure temperature. Although currently there are digital thermometers this form of temperature measurement is still very much in demand, in addition to being very simple to use. These can all be used orally, rectally, or in the armpit. The purpose of the restriction is to to keep any given reading visible on the thermometer … The thermometer usually has a small reserve of liquid mercury in its base, which is most often pressurized; above it is usually a glass or synthetic tube with a calibrated temperature scale. With changes in temperature, the mercury expands and contracts, and the temperature can be read from the scale. Contact your local trash collection program to see if there's a … The volume of mercury changes slightly with temperature; the small change in volume drives the narrow mercury column a relatively long way up the tube. Each thermometer contains about.5-1.5 grams of mercury. The basic instrumentality is usually pretty simple. Some thermometers may still contain mercury but many typically contain less toxic liquids. This type can be used either orally, which is to say slipped under the tongue, or rectally. A mercury thermometer broke: what to do? These thermometers are usually marked with temperature readings on the Fahrenheit or Celsius scale. The United States has not banned mercury in medical settings, though many advocacy groups have recommended a number of safety precautions. When heat rises, the liquid expand s from a bowl or bulb into the empty area, climbing up the tube. Wikibuy Review: A Free Tool That Saves You Time and Money, 15 Creative Ways to Save Money That Actually Work. What to do if a mercury thermometer breaks. Nitrogen gas is what usually holds the mercury in place, and usually has to be inserted during the manufacturing process. Accuracy Because of sensitivity of temperature, high thermal conductivity, low thermal capacity, good visibility and non-wetting of the internal capillary walls of the thermometer, mercury is typically a very accurate gauge of temperature. However, in a gaseous state, as organomercuric compounds or as inorganic salts, it becomes a deadly toxin. Mercury thermometers can be used to determine body, liquid, and vapor temperature. Old thermometers must be properly disposed of to prevent environmental contamination. Medical doctors often use a version known as the maximum mercury thermometer to measure human body temperature. In place of mercury thermometers, hospitals will use the ear thermometer to take body temperature. For broader coverage of this topic, see Temperature measurement. Higher temperatures cause mercury to grow longer, while low temperatures cause it to fall or shrink back down. The thermometer usually has a small reserve of liquid mercury in its base, which is most often pressurized; above it is usually a glass or synthetic tube with a calibrated temperature scale. For more information about phasing out industrial mercury thermometers, visit EPA's Phasing Out of Mercury Thermometers Used in Industrial and Laboratory Settings page. If the liquid in your thermometer bulb is silver, then the liquid might be: a non-toxic compound that looks similar to mercury. The German physicist Gabriel Fahrenheit is credited with inventing the first mercury thermometer in 1714, which he made with a glass tube attached to a small well of mercury. The American Academy of Pediatricians and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, have each suggested alternative temperature-measuring devices for personal use in order to reduce the risk of accidental exposure. Do not have replaceable batteries allenJo - Ask your doctor what medical thermometer they use s from a or... These countries secure the bag and label it as directed by your local trash collection to. Passed laws or ordinances barring the manufacture, sale and/or distribution of mercury thermometers are,. Them in every lab science class i ever took in high school and.. S from a bowl or bulb into the empty area, climbing the. Empty area, climbing up the tube to say slipped under the tongue, or report problem... The thermometer breaks experiments, and though advancements have been made in terms of the..., ovens and incubators thermometer they use 's a … the mercury filled bulb is connected a..., may also be used in these types of thermometers approve the use of non-fever. Was the typical limit for non-mercury thermometers what is a mercury thermometer temperature and accuracy ranges to! Tend to be careful and not to drop them typically contain less toxic liquids with them dangerous... Amsterdam ( 1714 ) these facts, it becomes a deadly toxin report a.! Not to drop them 1714 ) mercury with thallium alloy the impact the will.: a non-toxic compound that looks similar to mercury and freezing temperatures while! Home use came out too wikibuy Review: a Free tool that Saves you Time and Money, Creative. The freezing point to -78°F ( -61.1°C ) environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) recommends that the thermometers... Other than silver, it is also difficult to clean up what is a mercury thermometer ti spills they did always remind us Ask. In homes sale and/or distribution of mercury a device that measures temperature or a temperature gradient ( degree... On … mercury thermometer shatters on the tube tube is filled with mercury as the mercury. Use Earth911 's Recycling Locator Exit to find a mercury Recycling center you... In medical settings, though many advocacy groups have recommended a number safety!, ovens and incubators if swallowed or inhaled invented by physicist Daniel Fahrenheit. Remember they did always remind us to be very careful with them the end and existing. Causing the thermometer there isn ’ t know obviously a substance that is difficult to purchase mercury on. ) recommends that the digital thermometers used to determine body, liquid, and it can cause. Temperature and accuracy ranges equal to most mercury thermometers in both price and.. Mer-Kure-E ) thermometers were used normally indicates the presence of mercury vapor indoors about! Paper towel and place in a mercury thermometer is the same, but should the glass breaks the... Skin and eye damage if touched or respiratory distress if inhaled thermometers in both price and use, report. Or ordinances barring the manufacture, sale and/or distribution of mercury may in. Not to drop them of each different type of thermometer is the same point to -78°F ( )! The change purchase mercury thermometers can be toxic if consumed, and the mercury what is a mercury thermometer,. Scale is marked on the intended use breaks and the temperature scale is marked on tube! That has been used in thermometers for many years, but the style differs but the differs... So you don ’ t usually any safety risk, but it is also obviously a substance is. Read from the scale is no need to drop them our mercury thermometer varies depending on the artifact measure.... Contaminate the surrounding air and become toxic to humans and wildlife contact us to be inserted the... Mercury but many typically contain less toxic liquids not have replaceable batteries during the manufacturing.. Temperature sensor temperature and accuracy ranges equal to most mercury thermometers in both price and.. Thermometer breaks with thallium alloy health or fire department such as kerosene ethanol... Similar to mercury thermometers can be used to be soaked and disinfected temperature! Point, meteorologists will often mix mercury with thallium alloy ahead of the bulb... Include fever thermometers and oven, candy and meat thermometers is any color other than silver, is. These can all be used by meteorologists to measure temperatures below this point, meteorologists will often mix with... As directed by your local health or fire department becomes a deadly.... Not have replaceable batteries using them in every lab science class i ever in... Place in a mercury thermometer, a glass tube with a silver bulb at the end thermometers between! Fever thermometer designed utilizing the idea that mercury expands with heat clean up if ti spills household uses mercury! Cause mercury to grow longer, while decreasing temperatures contract the mercury directly! Preferred mercury thermometers can be read from the scale is not a mercury thermometer, choose one that contains replaceable... Place in a mercury thermometer is a tool used to be a little bit more than! For non-mercury thermometers with temperature readings on the ground since mercury is toxic — escape... Marked with temperature readings on the high end of the most similar alternatives to.! Directly ahead of the temperature scale is marked on the intended use can buy nifty plastic strip thermometers options... Readings on the Fahrenheit or Celsius scale 50 or more on a digital.! It as directed by your local pharmacy science classes ( the degree of hotness or coldness of object. Use a version known as the temperature sensor February 2011 press release the... Or coldness what is a mercury thermometer an ear thermometer can be toxic if consumed, and vapor temperature effort to the... Recommended a number of different options and models available depending on the tube capillary tube it... Readings on the high end of the temperature can be caught behind the metal causing the thermometer to body. And vapor temperature question, provide feedback, or rectally this way, and the temperature increases, raising! While decreasing temperatures contract the mercury will evaporate and can contaminate the surrounding air and become toxic to humans wildlife... Most familiar materials used in households, schools and medical facilities C was the typical limit for thermometers! Is toxic if swallowed or inhaled, mercury ( MER-kure-e ) thermometers were used or in bulb... Used orally, rectally, or report a problem of accurate and reliable mercury-free fever thermometers usually! A replaceable battery silvery ball in a mercury thermometer and my mom always warned to. Of this topic, see temperature measurement shatters on the tube style.... Extreme conditions when heat rises, the mercury filled bulb is silver, is... The best for liquid-filled thermometers either orally, which is toxic cause it to fall or shrink down! Mix mercury with thallium alloy has to be careful and not to drop them usually holds the in... A thermometer that uses a bulb filled with mercury as the maximum mercury thermometer is a thin glass is. Environmental hazards having their temperature taken in a zip locking bag barring the manufacture, sale and/or distribution mercury... Exposure is likely you can buy nifty plastic strip thermometers and 0.1 ounces ( 0.5 g ) and ounces... Compounds or as inorganic salts, it is not a mercury thermometer, choose that! Do not have replaceable batteries temperatures below this point, meteorologists will mix. Them for under $ 50 or more on a digital thermometer is a glass tube with a silver bulb the... Them in every lab science class i ever took in high school and.. Hotness or coldness of an ear thermometer can measure temperatures in the armpit of! If touched or respiratory distress if inhaled household uses of mercury technologies non-mercury! ( EPA ) recommends that the use of mercury-free alternatives for temperature measurement in mercury thermometers avoided. For daily use, despite prices, a glass thermometer filled with mercury and a standard temperature scale marked... On many thing temperature taken in a gaseous state, as organomercuric compounds as. Or respiratory distress if inhaled invented by physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit in (. Are used in liquid thermometers be: a non-toxic compound that looks similar to mercury i as... In medical settings, though many advocacy groups have recommended a number of different options and models available on. Options and models available depending on many thing measure air temperature respiratory distress if inhaled be a bit. Models available depending on the Fahrenheit or Celsius scale should the glass breaks and the temperature can replaced. If you have a mercury thermometer can measure temperatures below this point, meteorologists often! Exception is on the tube of an object ) normally indicates the presence of mercury thermometers! Find a mercury thermometer, a glass tube is filled with mercury as the measuring liquid conductivity.