USPS logo LINK — USPS employee news Printable

Keeping mercury out of the mail

USPS is offering important reminders for employees

Small droplets of a metallic substance on a clean surface
Metallic mercury and items containing metallic mercury are prohibited in the mailstream.

Due to recent mercury spills in the mail, the Postal Service is reminding employees that metallic mercury and items containing metallic mercury are prohibited in the mailstream.

Mercury is a toxic chemical that even when exposed in small amounts — through inhalation, ingestion or skin contact — may cause serious health conditions.

When spilled, mercury can be absorbed into the skin and emit vapors that can produce harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems; lungs; and kidneys and may be fatal.

It is imperative that this very harmful material is kept out of the USPS network.

Metallic mercury can be found in older thermometers, barometers, blood pressure monitors, switches and relays. Newer or digital versions of these devices generally do not contain metallic mercury.

Poster 318 explains the penalties associated with mailing mercury and other hazardous materials.

If a person knowingly mails items or materials that are dangerous or injurious to life, health or property, they may face a civil penalty of at least $250, but not more than $100,000 per violation; the costs of any cleanup associated with each violation; and damages. They may also face criminal penalties.

Exceptions to the outright ban on mercury in the mailstream include compact fluorescent lamps, fluorescent tubes and similar items that contain minute amounts of mercury in a vaporized state, invisible to the naked eye. These may be mailed domestically but not internationally — including Air/Army Post Office, Fleet Post Office and Diplomatic Post Office destinations.

Publication 52, Hazardous, Restricted and Perishable Mail, has complete information about mailing requirements for parcels containing mercury. Publication 52 can be found on the Postal Explorer website.

USPS has distributed a Domestic Mail Manual advisory on the topic of mercury in the mailstream. Employees with questions should speak to a manager or supervisor.

The organization issued a news release on June 21 to remind customers that metallic mercury is prohibited in the mailstream.

The Postal Service offers FAQs on prohibited items containing mercury and the Postal Inspection Service has released a public service announcement on mercury in the mail.

Additionally, USPS has released a chart with more information about commonly encountered mercury.