National Survey Finds Hospitals Use Less Mercury, Produce Less Waste


PHOENIX -- Hospitals have significantly reduced the amount of mercury and waste that comes from caring for patients, according to a recent survey by the American Hospital Association (AHA) and Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E).

Highlights from the survey include:

- 97 percent of hospitals recognize the problems associated with mercury use and have taken steps to reduce and eliminate mercury commonly found in fluorescent bulbs and thermometers in their facilities

- 72 percent of hospitals have inventoried and replaced all devices or labeled them as mercury containing for proper handling

- 80 percent of hospitals have implemented an overall waste reduction policy.

The survey is a part of the hospital field's commitment to assessing the impact of the 1998 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which set a 2005 goal for virtual elimination of mercury.

"Much progress has been made but there is still work to be done," said Mac Robinson, a vice president for the AHA. "The survey identifies areas where more education is needed.  We're committed to working with H2E and the EPA to promote environmental stewardship by providing hospitals with information and tools to reach the goal of virtual elimination of mercury and waste reduction."

The MOU called for the nation's hospitals to virtually eliminate mercury-containing waste from hospitals' waste streams and reduce the overall volume of waste by 50 percent by 2010.

H2E is a collaborative effort between the EPA, AHA, the American Nurses Association, and the nonprofit coalition Health Care Without Harm. H2E was launched after the MOU was signed by the EPA and the AHA to address healthcare's contribution to mercury pollution.

"The survey demonstrates an impressive achievement - hospitals have recognized the importance of a healthy environment for the overall health of the community it serves," said Laura Brannen, executive director for H2E. "Though we're not finished, we now have the opportunity to build on the tremendous work that's been accomplished to eliminate mercury from the delivery of healthcare, making it safer and healthier for all of us."

Since the MOU, H2E has been providing technical assistance and information to the healthcare field on mercury waste management. Over the past five years, the nation's hospitals have reduced the use of mercury. The market for mercury-containing medical products has been all but eliminated and the amount of mercury entering healthcare has sharply decreased.

Source: AHA



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