Sale of mercury thermometers banned

Ann Arbor City Council, Michigan banned the sale, import and manufacture of mercury thermometers in the city this week. Ann Arbor's ban is consistent with national mercury elimination initiatives in healthcare.

In 1998, the Environmental Protection Agency and the American Hospital Association signed a memorandum of understanding aiming to virtually eliminate the use of mercury from medical practice. Earlier this year councils in Duluth, Minnesota and San Francisco passed similar measures.

In 1998, US poison control centres answered 18,000 calls from people who had broken a mercury thermometer at home. If mercury spills from a thermometer and is not cleared up, it evaporates, and can cause dangerous levels in confined spaces. Mercury accumulates in the muscle tissue of fish and mammals. Mercury contamination has prompted fish consumption advisories in 40 US states. The Michigan Department of Community Health issued fish consumption advisories for every inland lake in Michigan.

“On behalf of the fish, loons and other wildlife that live in Lake Michigan and in the Great Lakes basin, I want to thank the Ann Arbor city council for their effort,” said Jamie Harvie, mercury co-ordinator for Health Care Without Harm.

HCWH is an international coalition of more than 270 organisations committed to transforming the health care industry so it is not a source of environmental harm.

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