Mercury Reduction

How to Establish Mercury Pollution Prevention in Your Hospital

Institute Best Management Practices

Obtain the CEO's stamp of approval for all of the best management practices that are selected to become part of the hospital's mercury pollution prevention program.

Eliminate mercury-containing products

The highest priority of the pollution prevention program is the elimination of mercury. The hospital should phase-in alternatives if evaluation has demonstrated them to be acceptable and cost-effective (taking into account disposal costs).

Make mercury pollution prevention easy

The Best management Practices section of this web site describes best management practices to keep mercury out of the environment. The chapter is organized by product (thermometers, laboratory chemicals, electrical equipment, etc.).

The hospital can make proper disposal easy by creating convenient locations for disposal of mercury products, as well as other hazardous materials. Establish an internal "take-back" program for electrical equipment by placing a collection box for old equipment at the point where the new equipment is picked up. Find a way to label mercury-containing products so that each user is aware of his or her responsibility for proper use and disposal.

Establish purchasing policies

Consider a policy that bans the purchase of any mercury-containing item if an adequate alternative exists. The policy could include a requirement for specific authorization by the hospital CEO or other designated official for the purchase of a mercury product. Authorize the purchasing department to make "mercury-free" a part of product specifications, to insist on mercury disclosures on all products coming into the hospital, to specify the use of recovered mercury in all products that do not yet have mercury-free alternatives, and to include disposal costs in cost evaluations.

It is becoming a competitive issue for vendors to ensure that their products do not create unnecessary waste or that they are made from recycled materials. Your vendors need to know that mercury-free alternative products are required by your hospital. Ask them to verify in writing that their products are mercury-free or that they will assist you in selecting mercury-free products. For laboratory chemicals, a Certificate of Analysis can be requested. For other products, a vendor product mercury-content disclosure can be requested.

Investigate opportunities for reduction in the cost of mercury-free products or reduction in recycling costs through group purchasing of products and services with other hospitals or clinics.

Educate staff

Employee education in mercury pollution prevention is an important component of successful programs. Determine which groups within the hospital need instruction and identify the most important topics for each group. Each segment of the training program should be adapted for the educational level of the group being trained and the intensity of training needed.

Try to incorporate mercury pollution prevention into existing training programs such as new employee orientation, safety training, right-to-know training, department meetings and grand rounds. Training should be continued on an annual basis until mercury-containing products are eliminated from the hospital.

Educational methods include:

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