Monday, June 22, 2009

Elimination of medical mercury

Do you prefer elimination of mercury-containing devices or using them in hospitals? Do you support programs that work to eliminate medical mercury equipment? Mercury emissions and waste is one of the sources that cause health problems. For example, mercury may affect the kidneys, brain, liver, spinal cord, and many other diseases. And the diseases, which can be caused by this element, are distorted vision, problems in breathing, nausea, memory loss, hallucination, personality disorder and many more. In other words, mercury is very harmful to the humans, living organisms and environment. Indeed, hospitals and health care facilities are considered one of the biggest sources of mercury emissions and waste. They have many devices, incinerators, and chemicals that contain or emit mercury. However, most hospitals and health care facilities have planned to reduce medical mercury emissions and waste since a few years ago. According to Christina Orlovsky, “In 1997, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported another surprising source of mercury pollution: hospitals. A new study, however, shows that health care facilities have significantly cleaned up their act” (2005, para.1). So, hospitals should pay more attention to eliminate or reduce medical mercury emissions.

Since a few years ago, some programs that target eliminating medical mercury-containing devices have started their work in hospitals. There are many benefits when the hospitals apply these programs’ ideas. Indeed, these programs contribute to reducing the waste of mercury, to protecting the health of medical staff, and to prevention spills of mercury.

First of all, programs that work to eliminate mercury-containing devices in hospitals and health care facilities contribute to making the environment without mercury emissions. We know that one source of mercury emissions is medical devices, which contains mercury. There are many mercury-containing devices in hospitals such as thermometers, fluorescent light bulbs and sphygmomanometers, or blood pressure cuffs. In addition, hospitals and health care facilities use this equipment every day, and they have many of these devices. Actually, these devices release mercury emissions, and that causes many environmental problems and health diseases. “Mercury-containing devices can release toxic fumes into the environment for years,” Renee Gryzkewicz said (2004, para.1).

There are medical waste incinerators which are considered one of the biggest sources of mercury emissions. These incinerators, especially old incinerators, emit a lot of toxic elements lead and mercury emissions. Barbara Sibbald says that more than 10% of mercury emissions are released by old incinerators which burn some metals and paper, and so on (2001). Thus, using these incinerators will increase mercury pollution in the environment.

Most hospitals have recently implemented programs’ plans to eliminate or reduce these devices and incinerators. Thus, elimination of these devices assists disposal from one source of pollution. And elimination of these devices protects our environment and planet. All hospitals have tried to rid these devices. So, they have begun to use alternative devices that don’t contain mercury. Of course, medical free-mercury devices have many advantages. The important thing in this equipment is that it contributes to decreasing the medical pollution. Christina Orolvsky says that 72% of health care facilities have started to replace all mercury equipment, and they have accomplished 80% of the pollution reduction plan. In addition, most hospitals have replaced old incinerators with modern incinerators. Because modern incinerators have flue-gas cleaning systems which are very reliable, they are able to remove almost all mercury emissions. “The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment has recently proposed new incinerator emission standards that will reduce current dioxin and mercury emissions by 80%,” Erica Weir said (2002, para.7).

Most hospitals staff workers know that the first step to making mercury-elimination programs succeed is elimination of mercury-containing devices and old incinerators. So, they should work hard to achieve that, and also they should just use free-mercury devices and modern incinerators in all hospitals around the world.

Second, elimination of mercury-devices programs in hospitals protects the health of hospitals’ staff. Doctors, nurses, laboratory officers, and pharmacists usually use these devices every day. Therefore, these devices affect the wellness, and they are considered the biggest problem because they may be exposed to mercury radiation. Moreover, exposure to mercury adversely affects the brain, kidney, and fetus. In fact, using mercury-containing devices threaten the health of all hospitals staff, and they also threaten a patient. Ratna Singh says that, “It is very important that healthcare workers are aware of how to handle mercury in case of spills” (2004, para.4). Therefore, mercury exists anywhere in hospitals, even in vaccines. That means not only do we need to eliminate mercury devices but also we need to cut off the flow of mercury to the hospitals.

Medical mercury disposal helps to minimize the exposure of workers and patients in a hospital to toxic metal. In fact, one of the important goals of most hospitals that have applied to eliminate mercury-containing programs is protecting the health care of hospital staff from mercury waste danger. Using alternative medical devices protects the healthcare workers from mercury emissions. Jean Ritter says that “There are very safe, and thorough methods to remove mercury fillings that are used by a knowledgeable office such as ours. To prevent additional mercury exposure, find a biocompatible dentist properly trained in mercury filling removal” (2007, para.6).

Most hospitals have tried to provide their workers the protection from mercury problems. To achieve that, they must apply three important steps. These steps include using free-mercury devices, disposal with medical waste incinerators, and cutting off the flow of mercury into the hospitals. If a hospital applies these steps, they might provide the environmental health for its workers. So, it is necessary that all hospitals pay more attention to protecting their healthcare workers and patients from mercury and exposure to the mercury emissions or waste.

Finally, programs that eliminate mercury-containing devices in hospitals help to reduce the spills of mercury. The biggest danger of these devices is if there are spills of mercury from these devices. Spills of liquid mercury from these devices may increase the levels of mercury in the air or wastewater of health care facilities. In particular, if these devices break, they release toxic mercury. And that increases the air pollution, which causes health problems. Also, hospitals have suffered the spills of mercury on floors, beds, machines, or anywhere in the hospitals. When the spill of mercury happens, it increases quickly in the air. A quick response to any mercury spill is very important. Jan Hefler says that if we don’t clean well when small amounts of mercury spill, mercury is still in the air over many days (2009).

Elimination of mercury devices avoids spills of mercury. Indeed, this is one of the wonderful results of these programs, which target eliminating of mercury in the hospitals. Because mercury exists in many devices and in labs, the possibility of spills of mercury is high. Thus, prevention of letting mercury enter the health care facilities is the best method to avoid mercury spill. That means that it is important to make a hospital free from mercury, so the hospital should replace mercury-containing devices by mercury-free devices. Also, it must cut off mercury chemicals, and it must use mercury-free chemicals. In sum, using modern devices that don’t contain mercury contributes to eliminating the healthy and environmental problems that are caused by spills of mercury. 

Many medical staff people think that programs of mercury-elimination in hospitals don’t succeed because we can’t dispose of some medical mercury devices such as mercury barometers. However, these people are forgetting something important:  mercury elimination programs at least try to reduce the amount of use of these devices. For example, we can eliminate many of these devices that we don’t need, and we may keep a few important mercury devices until we get alternative devices. That will contribute to decreasing the mercury-containing devices, and therefore, mercury emissions. So, I believe that these programs will succeed.

In conclusion, there are many benefits of programs that work to eliminate medical mercury devices in the hospitals and health care facilities. So, these programs assist to protect our environment from medical mercury pollution, to helping medical staff to use healthy devices, and to stop the potential of spilling mercury from these devices. Thus, I hope that these programs spread to including all hospitals around the world, so we should encourage these programs.



Gryzkewicz, R. (2004, December). Mercury, managed. Facilities News. Retrieved May 30, 2009, from

Hefler, J. (2009, March 9). Study outlines mercury dangers to children.

            P-com News Local. Retrieved Jun 07, 2009, from Lexis Nexis database.

Orlovsky, C. (2005, April 15). Hospitals reduce levels of mercury, Waste. Nursing News. Retrieved May 28, 2009, from

Ritter, J. (2007, May 7). Toxic mercury from old fillings can affect the health. Articlesbace. Retrieved June 17, 2009, from

Sibbald, B. ( 2001, February 20 ). Crackdown on hospital incinerators coming soon. CMAJ Medical News. Retrieved May 30, 2009, from

Singh, R. (2004, Jan 1) Handling mercury spills. Toxics Free Health Care. Retrieved Jun 07, 2009, from

Weir, E. (2002, February 5). Hospitals and the environment. CMAJ Medical Practice Public Health. Retrieved May 30, 2009, from

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