INDIANAPOLIS — Contractors in Indiana should find it easier to safely dispose of mercury-containing thermostats. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) has developed the Indiana Mercury Thermostat Reduction and Recycling Program.

Mercury is a nerve toxin that, when absorbed into the bloodstream, can impair the way people hear, see, walk, and talk. It can also cause irreversible learning and speech disabilities. With continued exposure, mercury accumulates in living organisms.

According to IDEM:

  • 99% of all fish sampled in Indiana have mercury in their tissue.

  • Less than 1 gram of mercury in a lake can contaminate the fish population.

  • The average household thermostat contains 3 grams of mercury.

Under the Indiana program, contractors pledge to encourage their customers to replace old mercury thermostats with mercury-free models. Suppliers pledge to reduce the number of mercury-containing thermostats stocked on their shelves, and to encourage contractors to purchase only mercury-free models.

Contractors may drop off mercury-containing thermostats at participating wholesalers, who will ensure they are sent to the Thermostat Recycling Corp. (TRC) for recycling.

Participating contractors and suppliers will receive free promotional items from IDEM to help publicize their involvement and commitment to the environment. Available items are free and include brochures, fact sheets, patches for uniforms and hats, window stickers, and posters.

Manufacturer sponsors

TRC, a private organization funded by thermostat manufacturers, now operates in nine states. Participating wholesalers in those states are given bins to collect mercury-type thermostats from contractors. When the bin is full, it is returned to TRC for processing.

TRC clips the mercury bulb and ships the mercury to a recycling center. In its first full year of operation, TRC said it processed 163.5 lb of mercury.

TRC operates in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Its board has authorized an expansion into 14 other states.

TRC began in December 1977. It is supported by Honeywell, General Electric, and White-Rodgers. Whether or not your state participates in TRC’s program, contact your state Department of Environmental Protection for information on how to dispose of mercury thermostats.

Note: Wholesalers participating in TRC’s program will not accept thermostats from other states.

Following are sources for more information.

  • IDEM: 317-232-8172; 800-451-6027 (press 0 and request extension 2-8172); (website);

  • Massachusetts: 617-292-5597;

  • New York: 716-858-6370;

  • Ohio: 614-644-2934;

  • Wisconsin, 608-267-9400;

  • TRC: 703-841-3249; 703-841-3349 (fax).