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Health Care Without Harm, WHO Announce Partnership for Global Reduction of Mercury-Based Medical Devices
Date:12/4/2008

NEW DELHI, India, Dec. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --Health Care Without Harm and the World Health Organization today launched a global partnership to substitute mercury-based medical devices with safer, accurate and affordable alternatives.

The announcement came during the opening of the South Asian Conference on Alternatives to Mercury in Health Care, an event sponsored by the two organizations and the Indian NGO Toxics Link.

"This initiative aims to replace no less than 70 percent of all mercury thermometers and blood pressure devices around the world with digital and aneroid alternatives within the decade," said Alexander von Hildebrand, Regional Adviser for Chemical Safety for WHO's South East Asia Regional Office. "It is our goal to significantly reduce the threat posed by mercury spills to patient and worker health, as well as the global environment."

Several countries have already taken steps to mandate safer, accurate and affordable alternatives to mercury-based medical devices. It is virtually impossible to find a mercury thermometer in the United States today, while the European Union has banned them outright, as has Taiwan. The Philippines has mandated a phase-out of all mercury medical devices over the next two years, while hundreds of hospitals in Latin America -- from Mexico to Brazil to Argentina are moving toward alternatives.

"This Partnership is a vehicle for health care leaders, government officials, NGOs and private sector participants from around the world to join forces in support of environmental health," said Josh Karliner, International Coordinator for Health Care Without Harm. "Anyone committed to mercury elimination in health care can join via the Partnership website, www.mercuryfreehealthcare.org."

The Partnership is based on both WHO and HCWH's ongoing efforts for substitution of mercury-based medical devices. It is also a component of the UN Environment Programme Mercury Products Partnership.

At the Delhi conference, health care sector leaders from across India and neighboring countries, along with experts from around the world are gathered to share experiences and learn more on how to make the switch. Organizers have also convened business leaders and aid agencies to discuss bolstering production of the non-mercury devices. "The conference is an important step for India to begin playing a leadership role in this essential global initiative," said conference host Ravi Agarwal, Director of Toxics Link.

Health Care Without Harm is a global coalition of 473 organizations in more than 50 countries working to protect health by reducing pollution in the health care sector. Visit Health Care Without Harm at www.noharm.org.

The World Health Organization, the international agency within the United Nations system responsible for health, has a number of programmes that address the threats posed by environmental pollutants providing information and guidelines for risk assessment and management, for preventing human exposure and for improving the diagnosis, treatment and surveillance of health effects.


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SOURCE Health Care Without Harm
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