Thermometer Science Project

It used to be a simple thing. When you had a fever, someone took your temperature. However, things may not have been so simple for everybody. In fact, scientists have learned that the little tool that was often used to conduct this simple study has caused a great deal of trouble. The bulbs at the bottom of glass thermometers contain mercury. Typical fever thermometers contain about 0.5 grams of mercury each. Find out whether your state sponsors a thermometer exchange or recycling program by going to the .

Let me explain. The lowly mercury thermometer contains enough mercury to contaminate an 11-acre lake. Broken thermometers were estimated to add some 17 tons of mercury to the U.S. waste stream annually back in 2003. Fish ingest the mercury just because they live in contaminated waters. Humans who eat the fish eat the metal.

Let’s examine mercury in relation to its effect on humans.

It causes neurological damage. Mercury thermometers have already been banned in numerous cities, including Boston. Some stores will exchange mercury thermometers for digital ones.

Mercury can permanently damage the brain and kidneys in humans. Death hasn’t been established as a matter of course but ask yourself the obvious question. There are other problems associated with mercury, including cancer, auto immune disorders, and reproductive system disorders.

Your project today, if you choose to accept it, and you should, is to memorize the steps to follow in the event that you are around when a mercury thermometer breaks. They are first of all to open windows and doors to the outside while asking everyone else to leave the area. Make sure they don’t walk through the mercury contaminated area. Remove all pets as well. Mercury can be cleaned up easily from smooth surfaces. If a spill occurs on carpet, curtains, upholstery or other absorbent surfaces, throw them away! You can cut out the affected area if need be.


  1. Put on rubber gloves.

  2. Pick up broken pieces of glass with care and place them on a paper towel. Fold the paper towel and place in a zip lock bag. Label the bag “Dangerous, Mercury.”

  3. Look for visible mercury beads. Use a squeegee or heavy cardboard to collect mercury beads. Move the mercury slowly in a continuous motion to keep it from becoming uncontrollable. (After it is dark, use a flashlight at a low angle close to the floor to look for additional glistening beads of mercury. They may be sticking to the surface or in cracks. Note: Mercury moves quickly, so inspect the entire room.)

  4. If you have an eyedropper, use that to get up the mercury and put it on the dampened paper towel. If not, put shaving cream on a paint brush and gently brush the affected area to pick up the beads. Lacking either of these tools, you probably have duct tape. (You should always have duct tape around, just as a matter of course, by the way.) Put the whole tape or paint brush in the zip lock bag, if it’s large enough. If not, use a larger bag, double bag, and label it.

  5. Place all materials used with the cleanup, including gloves, in a trash bag. Contact your local fire department for proper disposal in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

  6. Keep the windows open for 24 hours, and fans running in the exterior windows if you have them. Pets and children stay out of the area for that time as well. In the event of illness, go to the emergency room. Be especially careful if there were young children or pregnant women in the house.

Now, make an anagram for you to remember this instruction. What is an anagram?

An anagram is the formation of a secret code from the letters of a text. This message could one day save a person’s real life.