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Mercury and Maple Syrup



We’re working with our Dept. of Agriculture and Maple Sugar Producers Association to set up a mercury thermometer exchange with maple sugar producers.  New Hampshire has about 600 registered maple sugar producers and through just our verbal information gathering, we’ve already had inquiries from farmers wanting to swap their thermometers.

 

Maple sap must be boiled at something like 7 degrees over the boiling point of water and the producers use large, accurate, mercury thermometers to monitor the temperature.  Although FDA requirements dictate such thermometers be coated or shatter-proof, someone already asked, “What if a thermometer breaks and leaks into a vat of hot syrup?”  We should have an answer.

 

What happens to elemental mercury in that environment?  Would the mercury dissolve into the syrup?  Bond with the sugar molecules? Vaporize and produce mercury fumes?  Just sit there and do nothing?  It certainly won’t methylate in that sterile environment.  Considering a gallon of syrup goes for about $50.00, producers would want to know if a broken thermometer would require their disposal of a 50 or 60 gallon batch as a hazardous waste.

 

We couldn’t find anything on the internet or in our usual sources.  Any thoughts?

 

Paul L. Lockwood

NH Dept. of Environmental Services

29 Hazen Drive

Concord, NH 03301

(603) 271-2956