Mercury Clearinghouse - Product Labeling
State Mercury-Added Labeling Guidelines
The states of Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington prohibit the sale of mercury-added products unless the product and packaging are labeled.
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 to the consumer at the point of disposal so that they can be kept out of the trash and recycled. This is the primary purpose of the requirement for a durable label on the product and/or component.
Informing at the point of purchase includes all methods of sale, including but not limited to retail, online, and catalog. The same mercury disclosure information must be provided in all methods of sale in order to fulfill the prior-to-purchase visibility requirement under state labeling laws.
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 must be labeled to provide prior-to-purchase disclosure. Mercury-added pharmaceuticals approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration are exempt from state requirements. While the types of mercury-added products that are regulated by individual states may vary, the labeling requirements listed below comply with labeling requirements of all IMERC states.
If a product incorporates a mercury-added component, the label on the larger product must clearly identify the internal component and include all the Tier 1 Standard Labeling elements outlined below. This includes the larger product and package, product component, prior-to-purchase visibility in marketing materials (including websites and catalogs), and package for replacement components, if sold.
The manufacturer of the mercury-added product is in the best position to label the product. However, in order to sell their product into some states, some states also include importers and distributors under the definition of manufacturer, so they can assume this responsibility if the manufacturer does not. Merchants (selling via retail, online, or catalog) cannot “knowingly” sell a mercury-added product to someone in CT, LA, MA, ME, MN, NY, RI, VT, and WA unless mercury information is properly disclosed prior-to-purchase, such as including the Tier 1 Standard Label information outlined below on their webpages, catalogs, or other methods of distribution.
Product and Packaging Labels at Retail:
In a retail setting, a label on the product and packaging is the most common form of prior-to-purchase disclosure. The label must meet certain specified standards (Tier 1 standard labeling below) regarding wording, size, location, visibility, and durability. If the manufacturer cannot provide Tier 1 standard labeling on their product, they must apply to IMERC for approval of an alternative label.
Prior-to-Purchase Labeling and Disclosures for Internet, Catalog, and Other Sales:
If the product is offered for sale by catalog, telephone, internet, or by other means such that the label on the product or packaging is not clearly and easily visible to the consumer prior-to-purchase, the manufacturer must include Tier 1 disclosure information in sales literature, webpages, product specification sheets, and other marketing, advertising and social media materials describing and promoting the product.
The IMERC-member states recognize the need for consistency among labeling of mercury-added products and for simplicity in knowing when to apply for an alternative label if minimum labeling requirement cannot be met. They also understand that not every single product will be able to accommodate the full standard label. In 2016, the States developed a tiered approach as described below. The Tier 1 Standard Label meets the product-labeling requirements of all states with mercury labeling requirements.
- Product labels include all three standard labeling elements:
- Text that states “contains mercury” in 10 point font or larger
- Hg in a circle symbol
- Crossed out wheelie bin and/or text that states that the product cannot be placed in trash (e.g., “do not place in trash – dispose according to local, state, or federal laws”)
- The label must be 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
- If the product incorporates a mercury-added component, the label on the larger product, at minimum, must clearly identify the internal component and include all three standard labeling elements
- If the product is sold in packaging that obscures the product label, the outer packaging must, at minimum, be labeled with all three standard labeling elements
- If information about the product is contained in a catalog, webpage, or other methods of marketing, the standard label information must be included where a prospective purchaser is educated prior-to-purchase that the product contains mercury and information on proper disposal.
A product that contains these three pieces of information on the product, such that they are clearly visible prior-to-purchase via all methods of sale (retail, online, other) – or if the Tier 1 product label is not clearly visible to the prospective purchaser via all methods of sale, that all Tier 1 information is included on its packaging, and on internet webpages, catalog, specification sheets or other information – then the product does not require an alternative label application or review process. The States encourage manufacturers to follow this Tier 1 labeling criteria whenever possible and seek guidance from IMERC if there should be any questions on compliance.
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.
If the product cannot be labeled in accordance with all the Tier 1 criteria, then an application to IMERC for approval of the alternative must be made.
To request approval for mercury-added product alternative label or to renew a plan previously approved, complete both the Alternative Product Label Application Form and the Table and submit them to IMERC:
Note: A separate Form is required for each different proposed product label.
The applicant is encouraged to submit a request for review of an alternative labeling plan utilizing one of the suggested Tier options outlined below. The application can also propose an alternative that is not specifically listed in the Tiers below if these criteria cannot specifically be met.
The Attached Document provides a list of previously approved alternative labels.
Tiers 2 through 5 apply only to the label on the PRODUCT itself. Label must be sufficiently durable to remain legible throughout the life of the product. Outer packaging must, at minimum, be labeled with all required elements of the Tier 1 Standard Label. If the packaging has any space restrictions, those restrictions must also be submitted with rationale for any request less than Tier 1 labeling components. Information about the product contained in a catalog, a webpage, or other marketing materials, must include all the Tier 1 Standard Label information so a prospective purchaser is educated prior-to-purchase that the product contains mercury and information on proper disposal.
- Tier 2 = Product label incorporates 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. Requires IMERC approval – submit an alternative label application
- Tier 3 = Product label includes two of the standard labeling elements: 1) Hg in a circle symbol and 2) a crossed-out wheelie bin symbol. Requires IMERC approval – submit an alternative product label application
- Tier 4 = Product labels include the Hg in a circle symbol. Requires IMERC approval – submit an alternative product label application
- Tier 5 = Product labels include the Hg symbol underlined. Requires IMERC approval – submit an alternative product label application
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. All elements of the alternative labeling proposal (product, package, prior-to-purchase visibility) will be considered as a single, combined alternative proposal for review for each product or product category.
Generally, alternative labels are approved for a period of three years. Manufacturers should submit application forms requesting renewal of an alternative label at least 90 days prior to the labels’ expiration date(s).