Pharmacies to stop selling mercury thermometers; no plan for safe disposal yet

About seven months ago, the ministry recommended to pharmacies and the public that they replace the tubes of glass filled with toxic black mercury.

December 8, 2014 17:36
1 minute read.

Thermometer [illustrative]. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)


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The Health Ministry has finally instructed all pharmacies to stop selling mercury thermometers, and hospitals and clinics will have to stop using them as well, because, when broken, they are toxic to humans and the environment.

The ministry said that while it wants the public to replace their thermometers with those made from gallistan – a derivative of the element gallium – or less-accurate ones that are digital and electronic or simple ones pressed to the forehead, it has not yet managed to arrange for safe disposal of the mercury instruments. The change will go into effect on January 1.

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About seven months ago, the ministry recommended to pharmacies and the public that they replace the tubes of glass filled with toxic black mercury, but did not bar their sale or use in medical institutions. On Monday it issued such instructions, but even though it wants pharmacies to collect the old ones, it has not yet made arrangements with them on what to do if they collect them or with the Environmental Protection Ministry on how to dispose of them.

The gallistan-filled thermometers will suit Orthodox Jews who, unless there is no alternative, do not use electronic thermometers on Shabbat or holidays. They are already being sold in pharmacies.

If one picks up the element gallium, it melts in the hand because it liquifies at slightly above room temperature. Alloys of gallium, as well as indium and tin, are replacing mercury in thermometers because of their non-toxicity.

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