Reducing harmful chemicals in Hospitals

July 16, 2012

Chemicals continue to invade our daily lives – it is usually present in construction and manufacturing industries, agriculture, personal cosmetics and even in households. In the confines of hospitals and clinics, chemicals are also present.

“The health sector is definitely not exempt from chemical use, ” says Andrew Manassee, Senior Specialist Marketing at Welch Allyn Malaysia. “Some may not be aware of it but ironically, hospitals, where we seek treatment for sickness are the same places which expose us to disease-causing substance?”

He specifically cites mercury, an essential component in various medical and industrial equipment such as thermometers, sphygmomanometers, dental amalgam, gastrointestinal products, dilation and feeding tubes, batteries, fluorescent lamps, thermostats and bleaches.

“In thermometers and sphygmomanometers, mercury is enclosed in glass cases that can break and spill,” Manassee explains.

He then explains that mercury spills expose health-care workers and patients to elemental mercury. “Liquid mercury, even at room temperature, can evaporate and significant amounts of ingested or inhaled mercury may lead to harmful effects on the kidneys, brain, liver, lungs and spinal cord.”

Outside the hospital, the improper disposal of broken thermometers, sphygmomanometers and other mercury-containing products has led to mercury contaminating the environment.

Because of the recognition that hospitals contribute significantly to the problem of mercury in the environment, in 1998, a memorandum of understanding was  signed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the American Hospital Association. One of the key components of this agreement is to “virtually eliminate” mercury from hospitals by the year 2005.

“A number of hospitals around the Asian region have demonstrated that it is possible to practice mercury-free healthcare,” he says. Basically, all mercury elimination measures need a foundation of strong administrative support and financial resources.

In a presentation, the World Health Organisation (WHO) identified top barriers to mercury-free equipments and lack of awareness toppled the rest. The rest of the reasons include: force of habit, price, perception and accuracy, lack of influencers working, ease to use and lack of concern for environment.

To counteract these barriers cited by WHO, Manassee suggests some ways to speed up adaption of mercury-free  equipment. He cites specific legislative action, harnessing market opportunities, partnering with the media for generating awareness as well as bringing together government, hospitals, medical and nursing colleges, NGOs, manufacturers and influencers.


Category: Features, Uncategorized

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