Those mercury-filled thermometers parents had depended on for their sick kids long have been off the U.S. market. With industry, though, there still is at least one U.S. mercury-thermometer manufacturer, and thousands of the sensors still are working away in hundreds of facilities and laboratories nationwide.

Those in-use sensors moved one step closer to extinction when the National Institute of Standards and Technology began collaborating with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to phase out the devices.

NIST announced last month that it no longer will provide calibration services for mercury thermometers, something it has been doing since it opened its doors in 1901. Closing the program is part of a larger effort by the EPA and other professional standards, environmental and industry groups to end the use of mercury thermometers altogether.

Many ASTM standards stipulate the use of mercury thermometers, yet a number of state laws ban their sale and transport. NIST estimates it will be three years until all 700 ASTM standards have been amended to allow for the use of both mercury-free liquid-in-glass and digital thermometers. Currently, about 300 have been updated.

NIST says that in every case there is an alternative thermometer to suit the measurement need. NIST itself had a stockpile of more than 8,000 industrial-use mercury thermometers hidden away in drawers.

Search for “Mercury Gives Way to Safer Alternatives” to read the full story. To learn more about mercury thermometer alternatives and to read the EPA’s questions and answers about the phase-out, go to www.epa.gov/hg/thermometer.htm.

Anne Armel, Group Publisher, armela@bnpmedia.com

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