Sustainable Hospitals
Mercury Reduction
Mercury Sources and Alternatives in Health Care
Source: Adapted from "Mercury Reduction in the Healthcare Sector"

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This list is designed to assist staff at health care facilities in pollution prevention activities. While the list is by no means exhaustive, this sampling is intended to provide a starting point for hospital staff to assess the presence of mercury in their instituition. Additionally, alternatives to mercury-containing products are identified.
Equipment and Devices
Product Location/Use Available Alternatives Remarks
Dentistry Gold, ceramics, porcelain, polymers  
Batteries (Mercury oxide) Oxygen monitors, ECG monitors, personnel pagers, defibrillators, hearing aids, pacemaker, fetal monitors, etc Lithium, Zinc air, alkaline batteries Alternatives contain some mercury
Cantor tube Gastrointestinal device Anderson tube Device not widely used
Colormetric chloride analysis Chemistry Ion-selective electrode method  
Weighed esophageal dilator (Maloney or Hurst bougie) Operating Room Mercury-free versions are now available with Tungsten or stainless steel as a weight  
Weighted feeding tubes (old) Patient Care Virtually all new weighted feeding tubes use Tungsten, instead of mercury, as a weight  
Nursing Incubator thermostat Nursery Virtually all new nursing incubator thermostats now contain alcohol, rather than mercury  
Fluoresccent Germicidal metal halide
High-Pressure Sodium Ultraviolet
Mercury vapor High Intensity Discharge
Variety of Areas Use the most long-lasting, energy-efficient lights available for your intended use The amount of mercury in fluorescent lamps has decreased significantly in the past decade
Microwave oven (old) Various areas Use new models Heat is generated through mercury vapour bulb
Miller-Abbott tube Gastrointestinal device Tungsten tubing as a weight Device not widely used
Otoscope (old) Emergency Room New models do not contain mercury switches  
Sequential Multiple Analyser (SMAC) Chemistry Ion selective electrode SMAC not widely used
Sphygmomanometer Patient Care, measure blood pressure Aneroid
Mercury switches and Switches Various Areas Bi-metallic strips or electronic strips Switches contain trace amounts of mercury
Thermometer Patient Care, Emergency Room Electronic(Thermistor)
  • Oral
  • Rectal
  • Axillary
  • Tympanic
    Glass Tube (Non-Mercury)
    Vacuum systems (may use mercury-containing manometers) Maintenance Eliminate where possible, protect from breakage and spills  
    Product Location/Use Available Alternatives Remarks
    B5 Cytopathology, Histology fixative Zinc formalin such as Z-Fix After using B5, all Solutions (Such as rinsate, alcohols, etc.) can be contaminated with mercury. Proper disposal methods must be practiced
    Carbol-fuchin Microbiology, Histology stain See Remarks The commonly used preparations of Carbol- fuchin do not contain mercury
    Iodine solution Microbiology, Histology stain solution See Remarks While an iodine solution itself does not contain mercury, trace amounts may be present as a result of its use after Zenker's or B5 Solution was used or the presence of a preservative
    Hematoxylin Microbiology, Histology stain solution Sodium Iodate Gill's Hematoxylin Mercury-free Hematoxylin (mercuric oxide-free) Mercuric oxide is used in the preparation of some types of hematoxylin staining solutions
    Immune saline Blood bank saline Thimerosol-free immune saline Some immune salines contain the preservative thimerosol
    Mercuric chloride Microbiology test reagent Nitric acid Product not currently widely used independently, is the main ingredient in the histological fixative B5
    Mercuric iodide Histology stain Phenate method  
    Mercuric nitrate Chemistry, method used for the determination of chlorides in blood See Remarks Product not currently widely used
    Mercuric oxide Chemistry, used in Kjeldahl reactions in the determination of nitrogen-containing compounds Use of copper sulfate or potassium sulfate as catalysts in Kjeldahl reactions, or the use of the Biuret method (where a copper sulfate solution is used) Kjeldahl reactions are not widely used in hospital settings
    Mercurochrome Patient Care, used for the treatment of cuts Neosporin Mycin Some antiseptic creams contains the thimerosal (see below)
    Mercury (II) sulfate Chemistry Potassium sulfate Silver nitrate Chromium-(III)sulfate Product not widely used, replaced with the use of antibodies
    Phenolic Mercuric Acetate Chemistry Ion selective electrode Reagent not widely used
    Thimerosal (common name) or Merthiolate Various Areas Thimerosol-free products, where available As a preservative, thimerosol is often found in pharmaceuticals and optical solutions. As well, thimerosol can be used as a bacteriacide
    Zenker's solution/Lilly's buffered (contains Mercuric chloride) Pathology, Histology, Necroscopy Zinc formalin After using Zenker's, all solutions are contaminated with mercury (such as rinsate and alcohols). Proper disposal methods must be practiced.
    Disclaimer: The Sustainable Hospitals Project does not promote or endorse the suppliers or the alternatives listed here. This document is offered as a source of information only.

    Mercury Reduction
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