Mercury is a silvery white, liquid metal. It’s found in some household items, including: 

  • thermometers 
  • barometers 
  • thermostats 
  • some medical devices 
  • pendulum clocks 
  • fluorescent tubes and globes. 

When any of these break, mercury can escape and remain in: 

  • carpet and other household cloth. For example, fabric on your couch 
  • cracks in flooring. 

You can’t see or smell vapours from spilt mercury. They're a risk to human health when breathed in or they get in your eyes. 

Risk to human health from most household mercury spills is unlikely, but spills should be quickly cleaned up to avoid such risk. 

Find out more about other public health issues related to pollution and waste

Airborne dust and your health

Climate, weather and public health

Contaminated illegal drug labs and public health 

Contaminated land and public health

Environmental public health

Environmental public health: EPA’s role

Groundwater and your health

How to clean up mercury spills in your home

How to manage hazardous chemical waste and asbestos in your home

Trichloroethylene and your health

Reviewed 5 August 2020