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Mercury Ban In K-12 Schools

Under a 2012 law, Wisconsin schools are required to remove all mercury from school facilities and grounds.

Signed in October 2009, Wisconsin Act 44 established a plan to eliminate mercury from K-12 schools. Since January 1, 2012, schools (including school boards, private schools and charter schools) may no longer purchase any equipment or materials that contain mercury, store mercury anywhere in the building and are required to remove all traces of mercury from science labs, equipment and machinery. Schools are not required to do unplanned infrastructure changes to items such as thermostats and other HVAC mercury containing equipment. Only when planned changes are made does the law apply. In certain instances where no alternatives are available, schools may still purchase equipment containing mercury. For specific requirements, please review Wisconsin Act 44 [PDF exit DNR].

Although many devices contain mercury, there are numerous mercury-free alternatives. In schools, mercury is most common in science labs and equipment, but it may also be found in items like fluorescent lights, thermostats and thermometers in the nurse's office.

Mercury spills

Never touch mercury. Any object that touches mercury will become contaminated. Report all mercury spills immediately by calling the 24-hour, toll-free hotline at 1-800-943-0003. For more information about mercury spills, visit Mercury spills and cleanup.

Managing mercury as a hazardous waste

Wisconsin public schools may take advantage of the state hazardous waste contract to manage mercury. This is often much less expensive than hiring an independent contractor. The current hazardous waste contract can be found on VendorNet [exit DNR].

Alternatively, schools may hire their own hazardous waste contractor to dispose of mercury waste.

Please be aware that schools may not take mercury to a local Clean Sweep collection site unless that site is also authorized to take waste from very small quantity generators, businesses and institutions and if that site is accepting mercury. A list of very small quantity generator collection sites can be found at: Clean Sweep (DATCP) [exit DNR].