Mercury Reduction

How to Establish Mercury Pollution Prevention in Your Hospital

Gather Data

Identify mercury sources

The first task of the implementor is to create a baseline assessment from which progress can be measured. The department contacts should assist in this effort. Use the checklist of possible mercury-containing products and/or the checklist of categories of possible mercury-containing laboratory chemicals as guidelines. The department contacts should perform an audit of all uses and sources of mercury in their own departments.

Evaluate current handling and disposal techniques

The program implementor, with the assistance of department contacts, should assess the status of current hospital practices for handling mercury and staff knowledge about mercury sources and spill prevention and management.

If possible, wastewater sample results should be included in the baseline assessment. If the hospital does not currently sample wastewater, work with the hospital's wastewater regulator to learn what data is available or may be collected. Total discharges of mercury in pounds should be calculated. Total discharges are a better indicator of the hospital's impact on the environment than concentration.

Evaluate current policies

Department contacts can help to consolidate the hospital's policies that pertain to mercury such as:

Policies that address hazardous materials management and laboratory chemical management may be pertinent to mercury, even though mercury may not be mentioned specifically. Hospital policies may be collected by either of the two project leaders.

Evaluate mercury product alternatives

Use the information in Chapter 3 to learn more about mercury-free substitutes for the mercury sources noted on your baseline assessment. Hospital suppliers can also assist you in finding mercury-free alternatives.

Questions to ask when comparing a mercury-containing product and a mercury-free substitute include:

Once a decision has been made to introduce a substitute, it can be decided how to implement the substitution. Some hospitals replace mercury-containing products all at once. Some make substitutions gradually, replacing mercury-containing products when they become unusable.