The Postal Service is reminding employees that metallic mercury and items containing metallic mercury are prohibited in the mailstream.
Metallic mercury can be found in older thermometers, barometers, blood pressure monitors and the like. Newer or digital versions of these devices generally do not contain metallic mercury.
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.
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.
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.
USPS recently distributed a Domestic Mail Manual advisory on the topic of mercury in the mailstream. Employees with questions should speak to a manager or supervisor.
Starting July 9, USPS will require electronic indicators when shipping hazardous materials and dangerous goods. Publication 52 will be revised to incorporate new requirements for mailers to use unique service type codes and extra service codes within the tracking barcodes and electronic data submission for package shipments containing hazardous materials or dangerous goods.
The organization has also issued a news release to remind customers that metallic mercury is prohibited in the mailstream.