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IMERC Guidance Materials Labeling


State Mercury-Added Labeling Guidelines

Labeling Products and Packaging

The states of Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington (lamps only) prohibit the sale of mercury-added products unless they have a label indicating that the product contains mercury and information concerning proper disposal. The label must meet certain specified standards (standard labeling) regarding wording, size, location, visibility, and durability unless, the states have approved an alternative labeling to standard labeling that allows the manufacturer to vary from one or more of the specified standards. The purpose of labeling mercury-added products is to:

  • Inform consumers at the point of purchase that the product contains mercury and may require special handling at end of life; and
  • Identify the products at the point of disposal so that they can be kept out of the trash and recycled.

What Products Require Labeling?

The labeling laws apply to any product that contains mercury, a mercury compound, or a component containing mercury if the mercury is intentionally added to the product (or component) for any reason. The types of mercury-added products that are regulated by individual states may vary. Mercury-added pharmaceuticals approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration are exempt from state labeling requirements.

Who Must Label?

The manufacturer of the mercury-added product presumably is in the best position to label the product. However, importers and distributors may assume this responsibility if they choose. Retailers cannot "knowingly" sell a mercury-added product in CT, LA, MA, ME, MN, NY, RI, VT, and WA unless it is properly labeled, but are not required by law to affix labels to the product. Retailers, importers, and distributors of mercury-added products should contact the manufacturer to determine if it has met the states' labeling requirements.

Maryland and Oregon (thermostats only) also have mercury-added product labeling laws. These states are not members of IMERC.

What are the "Standard Labeling" requirements for mercury-added products?

Labeling requirements generally mandate that a mercury-added product has a visible and durable label that indicates that it contains mercury and should be managed or disposed of properly. The states also require that the product packaging bear a label that is visible prior to purchase indicating that it contains mercury and should be managed or disposed of properly. Individual state requirements may vary. However, a label that meets the following specifications would also meet the requirements of all IMERC-member states:

  1. Is visible to the product user;
  2. Is printed in English using 10 point font or larger;
  3. Is mounted, engraved, molded, embossed, or otherwise affixed to the product using materials that are sufficiently durable to remain legible throughout the life of the product;
  4. For lamps sold in CT - the Hg is required;
  5. Bears the wording "contains mercury";
  6. States that the product cannot be placed in trash and must be recycled or disposed of as a hazardous waste (e.g., "dispose according to local, state, or federal laws," "do not place in trash, dispose as a hazardous waste" or some equivalent wording or symbol);
  7. If the product incorporates a mercury-added component that is not visibly labeled in accordance with this standard, the label on the larger product must clearly identify the internal component (e.g., "the lamp in this product contains mercury");
  8. If the product is sold in packaging that obscures the label, the packaging also must be labeled as described above;
  9. If the product is offered for sale by catalog, telephone, or internet such that the label on the product or packaging is not visible at the time of purchase, the consumer must be made aware prior- to-purchase that there is intentionally-added mercury in the product by placing a label or other information provided in sales literature, webpages, etc.

The States have determined that any mercury-added product that includes the following three pieces of information on the product label meets the minimum “standard” labeling requirements for all IMERC-member states.

Text that states “contains mercury” (in 10 pt. font)
Hg in a circle symbol Hg circle
Crossed out wheelie bin crossed out trash can

If manufacturers are able to include a fourth piece of information to indicate that the product can be recycled, the states would recommend that they also include:
Recycling chasing arrows recycling arrows

Note: these are meant to be examples only. Manufacturers may choose to incorporate slightly different images, or keep the label as text only. As long as they follow the eight steps noted above, they meet the standard requirements.

Alternative Labeling Plans

A manufacturer may apply to the IMERC-member states for an alternative to the requirements of the standard labeling law where:

  • Strict compliance with the requirements is not technically feasible as determined by the IMERC-member states;
  • The proposed alternative would be at least as effective in providing presale notification of mercury content and instructions on proper disposal; and/or
  • Federal law governs labeling in a manner that preempts the state authority.

To request approval for mercury-added product alternative labeling or renew a plan previously approved by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, complete both of the Alternative Labeling Request Forms and submit them to IMERC.

IMERC will facilitate review and discussion of the proposed alternatives to standard labeling by representatives from the participating states, as appropriate. This joint review process will help ensure that alternative labeling plans submitted for approval by a manufacturer will meet the labeling requirements in all IMERC-member states.

Approved Alternative Labels

The IMERC-member states recognize the need for consistency among mercury-added products, and the desire for simplicity in applying for an alternative label. They also understand that not every single product will be able to accommodate the full standard label. In 2016, the States developed a tiered labeling approach as described below.

  • Tier 1 (Standard Label) = Product labels include all three standard labeling elements: 1) the Hg in a circle symbol; 2) text that states “contains mercury” in 10 point font (in English and French translation if shipping to Canada), and 3) a crossed-out wheelie bin symbol. A product that contains these three pieces of information does not require an alternative label application or review process. The States encourage manufacturers to utilize this label whenever possible.
  • Tier 2 = Product labels incorporate a slight variation of the three standard labeling elements: 1) Hg in a circle symbol; 2) text that states “mercury/mercure” in font sizes less than 10 point; and 3) a crossed-out wheelie bin symbol.
  • Tier 3 = Product labels include two of the standard labeling elements: 1) Hg in a circle symbol and 2) a crossed-out wheelie bin symbol.
  • Tier 4 = Product labels include the Hg in a circle symbol.

  • Tier 5 = Product labels include the Hg symbol underlined.

In limited cases, the States have approved product and/or package labels outside of the tiered system. The Attached Document includes examples of alternative labels that have been approved for use and are recognized by the IMERC states as satisfying their mercury-added product labeling requirements. These are publicly available and may be used by manufacturers wishing to deviate from the “standard” label requirements.

Manufacturers who wish to implement one of these alternatives must submit an application to IMERC, noting the pre-approved label number. Once received, the IMERC states will send the company a confirmation of receipt and a formal approval to use this label. Generally, alternative labels are approved for a period of three years. Manufacturers must submit a letters requesting renewal of an alternative label, at least 30 days prior to the labels' expiration date(s).

For more information about labeling mercury-added products, including information about alternative labeling requests, contact

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Last Modified 08/25/2020

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