The Sale of Antiques that Contain Mercury

Since signed into law in June of 2002, the Mercury Education and Reduction Act (The Act) has significantly reduced the amount of mercury products entering the commerce stream in Connecticut. The Act prohibits the sale of fabricated mercury products containing greater than 100 milligrams of mercury. Many mercury products such as thermostats, blood pressure cuffs, various types of switches and relays, manometers, and other products may no longer be sold in Connecticut when suitable non-mercury alternatives are available.

Section 22a-623(b) of the Connecticut General Statutes provides an exemption for the sale and labeling of mercury-added products that were manufactured prior to January 1, 2004. Thus antique mercury-added products, such as barometers, clocks, and mirrors may be exempt from the sales prohibition and labeling requirements. However, pursuant to the conditions associated with such an exemption, the seller must be able to provide documentation showing that the product was manufactured prior to January 1, 2004. Often times this is accomplished by obtaining manufacturer documentation (certification) that the product was manufactured prior to January 1, 2004. When working with antique products, the chance of obtaining documentation from a manufacturer as to the production date of a mercury-added product may be difficult to achieve. If the manufacturer of an antique mercury-added product, such as a barometer, is still in business, the seller of antique mercury-added product should seek documentation from the manufacturer as to the date of product manufacture. Should the manufacturer no longer be in business, the Department of Environmental Protection (the department) would accept as an alternative, the written certification of an expert in the area of such antique mercury-added product that accounts for the product date of manufacture. The expert must certify that the product date of manufacture, to the best of their knowledge, is prior to January 1, 2004. The certification is necessary to assist with the enforcement of the sales prohibition on mercury-added products manufactured on or after January 1, 2004, including antique "replicas". Such certification shall be included in any transaction of an antique mercury-added product and passed on to the buyer. The Act also directs the department to educate the public about the hazards associated with mercury. In addition to the manufacturer documentation or the expert certification, it is strongly recommended that the seller of an antique mercury-added product also provide the buyer with a copy of the Connecticut Department of Public Health fact sheet entitled: Metallic Mercury: Health Effects Fact Sheet.

The department encourages owners of antique barometers to exercise extreme caution when handling or transporting mercury filled barometers. These barometers contain large amounts of mercury and if spilled, would present a significant threat to the health of those exposed as well as extensive clean-up costs. Owners should not attempt to drain or replace the mercury on their own. It should be noted that the sale of elemental mercury in Connecticut, in accordance with section 22a-621 of the General Statutes, is restricted to medical, research or manufacturing purposes. Owners of antique barometers should consider consulting a reputable antiques dealer with knowledge of the repair of mercury barometers or a licensed hazardous waste professional when dealing with mercury related issues. Please be advised that the U. S. Department of Transportation has established regulations for the transportation of mercury-added products, which would include the buying and selling of antique mercury barometers.

Content Last Updated on January 23, 2007.