August 20, 2003

SALT LAKE CITY - Utahns traded in mercury thermometers at a near feverish pace during a statewide drive to reduce the threat of household mercury poisoning, according to the University of Utah Poison Control Center (UPCC).

Residents from St. George to Logan took advantage of the offer, handing in 2,116 mercury thermometers. They also brought in 22 sphygmomanometersblood pressure measuring devices that use mercuryas well as 14 jars of the toxic substance.

UPCC director Barbara Crouch, Pharm.D., M.P.H., associate professor of pharmacy practice at the U College of Pharmacy, said the response to the exchange program was overwhelming.

We are pleased so many people helped to rid households of a potential health and environmental threat, Crouch said. Were grateful to all our partners and especially Smiths pharmacies for collecting mercury thermometers and providing an incentive to purchase a digital thermometer.

The project, sponsored by the UPCC, Smiths Food & Drug Stores, the Department of Environmental Quality, and the Salt Lake Valley Health Department, ran from June 9 through June 21. During that time, anyone who brought in a mercury thermometer to a Smiths pharmacy received a coupon for 50 percent off the price of a digital one.

Mercury thermometers provide accurate temperature measurements, but break easily. Exposure to even small amounts of mercury through contaminated air, water, or food affects the nervous system, kidneys, and skin.

The UPCC, part of the U of Us College of Pharmacy, received 84 calls last year regarding potential mercury exposure, most involving broken thermometers.

For more information, contact:

Barbara Crouch, Pharm.D., M.P.H.