When mercury is released into the environment, it can be converted to methyl mercury by aquatic bacteria. Methyl mercury is a highly toxic compound that does not break down. Once introduced into the ground and water supply, mercury accumulates in living tissue through the aquatic food chain and can severely affect the health of humans and wildlife.
Products such as thermostats and thermometers, as well as smaller devices, including mercury switches and relays found in appliances and manufacturing equipment, contain a significant amount of mercury.
Concluding that it was critical to eliminate the use of mercury in those products where alternatives existed, the California State Legislature enacted Assembly Bill (AB) 1415. This law can be found in Health and Safety Code, Division 20, Chapter 6.5; Mercury-Added Thermostats, Relays, Switches, and Measuring Devices (Sections 25214.8.1-25214.8.6).
AB 1415 prohibits a person from selling the following new or refurbished mercury-added products in California:
- Mercury switches
- Mercury relays
- Mercury diostats
- Products that contain mercury switches or relays
- Mercury-added thermostats (for more on thermostats please see the Mercury Thermostat Collection Act of 2008)
- Esophageal dilators, bougie tubes, or gastrointestinal tubes
- Flow meters
AB 1415 also exempts certain products and devices from mercury restrictions. The following mercury-containing products and devices can be sold in California:
• Products whose only mercury component is a mercury button cell battery
• Mercury-added products, including mercury switches and relays, required for use under federal law or federal contract
• Mercury switches and relays used to replace those same components in larger products in use before July 1, 2006, if one of the following applies:
• The larger product is used in manufacturing, or
• The switches and relays are not physically separate from the larger product.