The Health Ministry has finally instructed all pharmacies to stop selling mercury thermometers, and hospitals and clinics will have to stop using them as well because, when broken, they are toxic to humans and the environment.
The ministry said that while it wants the public to replace their thermometers with those made from gallistan — a derivative of the element gallium — or less-accurate ones that are digital and electronic or simple ones pressed to the forehead, it has not yet managed to arranged for their safe disposal. The change will go into effect on January 1.
About seven months ago, the ministry recommended to pharmacies and the public that they replace the tubes of glass filled with toxic black mercury, but did not bar their sale or use in medical institutions. On Monday it issued such instructions, but even though it wants pharmacies to collect the old ones, it has not yet made arrangements with them on what to do if they collect them or with the Environmental Protection Ministry on how to dispose of them.
The gallistan-filled thermometers will suit religious Jews who do not use electronic thermometers on Shabbat or holidays. The gallistan-filled glass ones do not require doing anything that is forbidden then. They are already being sold in Israeli pharmacies.
If one picks up the element gallium, it melts in the hand because it liquifies at slightly above room temperature. Alloys of gallium, as well as indium and tin, are replacing mercury in thermometers because of their non-toxicity.