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Mercury

I found some nice stuff on Thursday, and also saved something toxic from making it to the landfill.

In one of those bags was a little jar of mercury! Judging by its label I’d guess it was made in the 40s. The listed weight is one pound, but it’s around half full (weighs about 240 grams according to its scale, and presumably about 30 grams of that is the jar). Regardless, for its size the jar is quite heavy, and it’s interesting to feel how it sloshes around in there.

From what I can tell mercury is safe enough in this form, ie: in a glass bottle at room temperature. It’s even relatively safe to play with it in your hands – my friend’s mom apparently used to break thermometers and play with the mercury, and I also read some accounts of students touching it as part of a high school science class. However, it is still quite toxic, especially if inhaled. It’s especially bad for the environment, particularly in the food chain. Seafood is particularly vulnerable to mercury, and through biomagnification it can affect larger animals (like us) as well.

So, it’s good that I saved this from going to the dump! It’s also probably good that it didn’t get crushed by the garbage truck, as the mercury in theory could vaporize and end up in the face of the garbage collectors. I’m guessing whoever tossed it wasn’t paying attention to what they were throwing out, or didn’t know just how toxic mercury can be.

This is the first time I find a significant amount of mercury. I’ve seen a few old mercury thermometers before, but those apparently contain only up to around 2.5 grams. Finding this makes me wonder if there are any other toxic elements collecting dust in people’s basements. Maybe someone has a jar of cadmium, arsenic, or radium kicking around.

Fortunately, I also found some stuff here that I can use or sell.

I found a couple little plastic containers, once of which held a small collection of Wade figurines.

They’re not worth much, probably around 3$ a piece, but it’s definitely better than nothing.

I saved plenty of neat old junk, including two card games from Canada’s centennial (1967), a couple pairs of cool no-name frames, and two rolls of veneer.

Sorry these photos aren’t as good as they are usually, I’m still figuring out how to take photos at my new garage space. The lighting definitely isn’t as ideal as it is in my light box, but it’s better for taking larger group shots (which saves me a lot of time, and generally makes it easier to share extra finds).

Here’s a couple of cute strung together cardboard animal figures. I’d guess they’re from the 60s or 70s.

The jigsaw was a nice find. It’s old and a bit dirty, but still seems to work great. My friend will likely make use of it in some future woodworking project.

Otherwise, I saved some leather scraps, powder paints, and some vintage watercolour paints. I’m not sure if any of the paints are still good, but I figured I’d give them a chance.

I’ll definitely be returning to this house this week. Hopefully I find more old junk, and less mercury.

I’ve been having a lot of luck lately in my garbage runs. In fact, I have a backlog of photos on my computer waiting to be shared. I’m sure I’ll have another post up by the end of the week!

Relevant links

1. Facebook page
2. My eBay listings
3. Etsy store
4. Kijiji listings
5. Contribute to garbagefinds.com
6. Follow me on Instagram

Email: thingsifindinthegarbage@gmail.com. I often fall behind on emails, so I apologize in advance if it takes me a while to get back to you.

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