Know Why Mercury Thermometers Are Not Allowed On Flights

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Ensuring Safety in the Skies

Aviation safety ranks among the top priorities for all individuals, whether they are pilots, flight attendants, or passengers. Strict regulations are in place to ensure compliance with safety standards, and one such regulation prohibits passengers from carrying mercury thermometers on flights. Instead, they are advised to carry digital thermometers, as mercury-based ones are strictly prohibited during air travel.

Mercury and Aluminum: A Risky Interaction

Mercury thermometers are banned on planes due to their potential reactivity with aluminum, the primary material used in aircraft construction. This interaction can result in the creation of a corrosive substance that may compromise the aircraft’s structural integrity and, in some cases, lead to the formation of a breach.

When mercury comes into contact with aluminum, it forms an amalgam, which is a relatively fragile alloy. The vulnerability of this alloy means that the slightest disturbance can lead to its breakage. In the context of aviation, the formation of a breach in the aircraft’s fuselage can have catastrophic consequences.

Mercury’s Toxic Threat: A Health Hazard in the Cabin

Besides the safety hazard posed by potential structural damage, mercury is also a toxic substance. In the unfortunate event of a mercury thermometer breaking on a plane, it could release mercury vapor into the cabin. Mercury vapor is detrimental to human health and has the potential to cause neurological damage.

For these compelling reasons, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) enforces a ban on mercury thermometers, prohibiting them in both carry-on and checked luggage. In contrast, digital thermometers are not subject to such restrictions as they do not contain mercury and do not pose the same safety risks.

Additional Reasons for the Ban

Additionally, here are some supplementary reasons behind the prohibition of mercury thermometers on aircraft:

  • Mercury is a heavy metal and can be challenging to clean up if it spills.
  • Mercury vapor is highly volatile and can rapidly disperse throughout the aircraft cabin.
  • Mercury is a neurotoxin and can lead to severe health problems if inhaled.
Ashton Henning

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