The Postal Service is reminding employees to do their part to prevent mercury from entering the mailstream.
Elemental mercury is a dense, silver metallic liquid that is a designated hazardous material and is prohibited from the mail.
To protect the safety of employees and customers and to avoid costly and disruptive spills, USPS requires employees to follow specific procedures for identifying and handling hazardous materials, including mercury.
This year, USPS added mercury to the list of items that retail associates must ask customers about when accepting packages.
With this change, employees must ask, “Do any of your articles contain anything liquid, fragile, perishable or potentially hazardous, such as lithium batteries, perfume or mercury?”
Employees should also be aware of other signs that may indicate the presence of mercury, including:
- A package that displays signs that it contains liquids, such as sloshing, combined with a weight that seems heavier than it should be
- Comments by a customer that their package has items that typically contain mercury, such as thermometers, barometers, blood pressure devices, and gold reclamation and elemental collecting materials
- Addresses that indicate a mining operation, a dental supply firm or dentistry practice, a metal reclamation company or a similar organization
If a retail associate accepts a package, then detects the possible presence of mercury, he or she should isolate the parcel and email the Postal Inspection Service’s hazardous material team at email@example.com so the incident can be evaluated.
For additional information, employees should refer to Publication 52, Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail (Section 348.21 and Appendix A).
Retail Digest’s Nov. 5 edition also has information.