Traditionally, mercury thermostats were incinerated or landfilled, allowing mercury to be released into the environment. Mercury is a toxic liquid metal which can vaporize and precipitate back over our land and waterways. It is especially dangerous because it does not break down and bioaccumulates in the tissues of fish, which are then consumed by people.
Why are we concerned about mercury thermostats?
Mercury thermostats can be a major source of mercury contamination in the environment. Each mercury thermostat contains approximately 3 grams of mercury. Traditionally, they were incinerated or sent to landfills, allowing mercury to be released into the environment. Mercury is a toxic liquid metal which can vaporize and come back to the land and water through rain. It is especially dangerous because it does not break down and "bio-accumulates" in the tissues of fish, which are then consumed by people. Mercury thermostats were widely used in California prior to 1992 and were legal to buy until 2006. - Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management, State of Maine
Supporting Thermostat Stewardship
In 2008, CPSC and the California Sierra Club co-sponsored AB 2347, the Mercury Thermostat Collection Act. This was the first extended producer responsibility bill to become law in California. The not-for-profit Thermostat Recycling Corporation (TRC) was formed to comply with the new law, and has developed a convenient take-back program for mercury thermostats. Under this law, heating and air conditioning (HVAC) wholesalers are required to accept mercury thermostats from the public free-of-charge, and contractors who remove mercury thermostats are legally required to recycle them. The Department of Toxic Substances Control drafted regulations to implement the new law and sought public input. On February 19, 2013, CPSC and our partner organizations drafted and submitted comments on the proposed regulations which were adopted by the Office of Administrative Law in May 2013. CPSC along with allies put out this press release on May 22, 2013 on the final rulemaking.
- Tempers Are Rising About Mercury - Crosslands Bulletin, 4/14/2013
- CA Mercury Thermostat Law Now in Effect - Thermostat Recycling Corporation Press Release 7/8/09
- Manufacturers Implement Mercury Thermostat Recycling Program in CA - Thermostat Recycling Corp. 6/18/09
- San Luis Obispo County passed a mandatory thermostat retail take back in 2010. The county adopted the resolution after their finding the implementation of AB 2347 by the Thermostat Recycling Corporation to be slow, citing low recovery rates (less than two percent based on the Skumatz study) and no retailers in the county signing up to be drop off locations.
- San Luis Obispo County Ordinance establishing an out-of-service mercury-added thermostat management program. - 11/10/10
- CPSC's Mercury Thermostat Collection Webinar 12/16/09
In case you couldn't join us for the webinar, you can still have access to the important information shared by our webinar presenters. Here are links to the Powerpoint presentations given by Neena Sahasrabude with the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) and Mark Tibbetts with the Thermostat Recycling Corporation (TRC).
- California Department of Toxic Substance Control Presentation
- Thermostat Recycling Corporation Presentation
- CPSC provides a model letter to HVAC Wholesalers from local governments, explaining their responsibilities and how to sign up for a collection bin.
Model Letter to HVAC Wholesalers from Local Government
- Assemblyman Ruskin holds press conference for signing of historic producer responsibility law, AB 2347. Thanks to all the hard work of CPSC and our Partners, AB 2347 was signed by the Governor on September 29, 2008.
AB 2347 press conference at the Palo Alto Water Treatment Facility, October 20, 2008
Left to right: Barbara Spector, Mayor of Los Gatos; Rick Brauch, Dept. of Toxic Substances Control;
Heidi Sanborn, CPSC; Ira Ruskin, Assemblymember and Author of AB 2347; Bill Magavern,
Sierra Club California; Pat Foster, Mayor of East Palo Alto; Larry Klein, Mayor of Palo Alto;
Samantha Omey, Honeywell
- National Resources Council of Maine Product Stewardship Case Study # 3
- Turning Up The Heat II - Multi-state Mercury Products Campaign
California Policy and Legislation
- AB 2347 Mercury Thermostat Collection Act - Approved 9/29/08
AB 2347 is California's first producer responsibility legislation. This bill established a shared responsibility program for mercury thermostat recycling and provided fiscal relief for cash-strapped local governments. The bill took an extended producer responsibility approach for establishing thermostat recycling programs, allows consumers and contractors to return waste thermostats to retail locations that sell new ones, and requires thermostat producers to fund the recycling program.
See Local Policies & Resolutions for more.
- CPSC Letter to DTSC Regarding Thermostat Regulations 9/19/2012
- Draft Regulations from DTSC 6/11 from DTSC 6/2011
- CPSC Comment Letter 6/29/11
National Policy & Legislation
- Model Letter to HVAC Wholesalers from Local Government
- DTSC Mercury Thermostat Fact Sheet 6/2/09
- DTSC’s Mercury Thermostat Postcard explains how household hazardous waste programs can receive a free collection bin.
- Mercury Thermostats: Estimating Inventory from Existing Buildings - Skumatz Economic Research Associates, Inc. 3/09
- Mathematical Model Estimating Mercury Thermostats in Commercial Buildings - Final Report King County, WA 3/06
- FAQ About the Thermostat Recycling Corporations Measurement Survey
TRC is required under California's Mercury Thermostat Collection Act to develop a survey to measure the number of waste thermostats generated each year.
- Memo from TRC Regarding Changes to the Field Verification Study based on Stakeholder Feedback 10/1/09