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Monday, January 20, 2020  

Hospitals leaning toward safer alternativesPublished 10/14/2005

Hospitals have significantly reduced the amount of mercury found in facilities and are demonstrating a clear preference for safer alternatives, according to a recent national survey by the American Hospital Association (AHA) and Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E).

According to the survey, 97 percent of hospital respondents across the country were aware of the problem with mercury and had taken steps to address the issue, including labeling mercury-containing devices and phasing out their purchase in favor of safer, equally effective alternatives; 80 percent of respondents had completely eliminated the use of mercury fever thermometers; 73 percent had removed all mercury sphygmomanometers from their facilities, more than 81% currently purchase mercury-free cleaning chemicals, and 64% purchase mercury-free pharmaceuticals; 60 percent of respondents had implemented a mercury management policy, and more than 54% had established a policy to virtually eliminate mercury facility-wide.

"More than 1,000 hospitals across the U.S. have pledged to virtually eliminate mercury medical devices. More than 90% of pharmacy chains have stopped selling mercury fever thermometers. Three of the five largest health care group purchasing organizations now have mercury-free purchasing policies. This survey reveals a deep shift in the culture of the industry," said Laura Brannen, executive director of Hospitals for a Healthy Environment.

"Hospitals have recognized that they shouldn’t be contributing to the serious public health threat caused by mercury pollution. We now have the opportunity to build on the tremendous work that’s been accomplished to finish eliminating mercury from the delivery of health care, making it safer and healthier for all of us."

Mercury is a persistent toxic chemical that builds up in the environment and our bodies. Exposure can affect the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver. Currently 48 states have fishing advisories due to dangerous levels of mercury pollution.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 8 women in the U.S. has a blood mercury level high enough to impact fetal development. The recent survey is part of H2E’s commitment to assessing the impact of its mercury elimination efforts in the sector.

In the last seven years, more than 86 hospitals have received the H2E "Making Medicine Mercury Free" Award for their mercury elimination efforts, and more than 1,000 have pledged to go virtually mercury-free with H2E’s assistance.

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