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Ontario Poison Centre




Mercury can be found in many old thermometers. Most commercially available thermometers now no longer contain mercury, however they can still be purchased. Mercury can be highly toxic when the heated vapour is inhaled; however, the risk of inhaling at room temperature is small. In addition, the amount of mercury in these thermometers is relatively small and a broken thermometer poses a low risk to your health, unless mishandled or carelessly stored.

Poisoning Risk

Low with appropriate clean-up measures.

Expected Symptoms

Mild-moderate mercury poisoning (not expected from this exposure): cough, shortness of breath, lethargy, headache, tremors, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.

Home Treatment

  • Leave room and ventilate area for at least 15 minutes.
  • Do not use a vacuum or broom.
  • Wear disposable gloves if available.
  • Scoop up the broken pieces and debris with two pieces of stiff paper or cardboard.
  • Wipe the area with a damp paper towel.
  • Place broken glass and cleanup materials in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid, and take to local hazardous waste depot.
  • If you have questions, call the Poison Centre.

*Note: For carpeted surfaces, visit Health Canada website for more information:


  • Every case is different. OPC is available 24hrs/day to provide information for your individual situation. Call 1-800-268-9017 (Toll-free) or 416-813-5900 (Local).




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