Skip to main content

Mercury Ban

2009 Wisconsin Act 44

Wisconsin Act 44 was signed in October 2009 and regulates the sale, distribution and use of specific mercury and mercury-containing devices to Wisconsin citizens, businesses, institutions and others, including specific requirements for Wisconsin K-12 schools. The portion of Act 44 that regulates mercury use in schools only applies to K-12 schools in Wisconsin while the second portion of Act 44 regulates mercury sale for all state citizens and businesses, and applies to Wisconsin colleges and universities.

For complete information, please review 2009 Wisconsin Act 44 [PDF exit DNR] and s. 299.49(3), Wis. Stats. [PDF exit DNR].

Mercury ban in K-12 schools

Wisconsin K-12 schools (including school boards, private schools and charter schools) may not knowingly:

  • purchase or use free-flowing elemental mercury;
  • purchase or use a mercury-containing instrument or measuring device unless exempt (i.e., there is no reasonable alternative or use is required by federal law);
  • store free-flowing elemental mercury; or
  • store a mercury-containing compound or an instrument or measuring device containing mercury, unless exempt.

For more information, visit Mercury ban in schools.

Mercury ban in products

The ban on the sale and use of certain products that contain mercury went into effect on November 1, 2010, and s. 299.49, Wis. Stats., outlines the restrictions and exemptions on the sale and use of mercury and products containing mercury, such as fever thermometers, manometers and mercury switches and relays. Exemptions to the ban on products containing mercury may be granted by the DNR in certain circumstances. Exemptions may not exceed five years in length but may be renewed if the manufacturer or user complies with the original exemption conditions.

Mercury-containing banned devices

The statute defines "mercury-added products" as a product to which mercury is intentionally added during formulation or manufacture, or a product containing one or more components to which mercury is intentionally added during formulation or manufacture. Under s.299.49(2), Wis. Stats., no person may sell, supply or distribute the following:

  • all thermometers, including fever thermometers;
  • all manometers, including the type used in dairy farm milking machines;
  • thermostats;
  • instruments or measuring devices (unless required under federal law or the only mercury-added component is a button cell battery), including:
    • barometers,
    • esophageal dilators, etc.,
    • flowmeters,
    • hydrometers,
    • hygrometer/psychrometers,
    • pyrometers, and
    • sphygmomameters.
  • mercury switches and relays (individually or as a product component unless that component in a larger product is in use prior to the effective date of the ban); and
  • household items (unless the only component is a button cell battery), including:
    • toys or games,
    • jewelry,
    • clothing or shoes,
    • over-the-counter pharmaceuticals for human use, and
    • cosmetic, toiletry and fragrance products.

Compact fluorescent bulbs are not covered by the ban. The DNR encourages the use of these energy saving bulbs as well as their proper management once they have reached the end of their useful life.


Exemptions to the mercury ban in products may be granted by the DNR in certain circumstances. To apply for an exemption, a manufacturer or user must submit a written request to the DNR indicating that the mercury product is reasonable and appropriate for a specific use based on the following criteria.

  1. A system exists for proper collection, transport and processing of the product at the end of its life.
  2. One of the following applies:
    • use of the product provides a net benefit to the environment, public health or public safety when compared to available nonmercury alternatives; or
    • technically feasible nonmercury alternatives are not available at comparable costs.

Exemptions may not exceed five years in length but may be renewed if the manufacturer or user complies with original exemption conditions. Prior to applying for an exemption, please closely review s.299.49(3), Wis. Stats. [PDF exit DNR]. The department may request records and reports that characterize mercury use in the products for which the exemption was granted.

Requests for exemptions should be sent to:

DNR Waste and Materials Management Program
Hazardous Waste Prevention and Management Section - WA/5
PO Box 7921
Madison WI 53707-7921