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EPA Welcomes Saint Vincent Hospital in Mercury Reduction Program

Release Date: 03/21/2000
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office (617-918-1008)

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced that Saint Vincent Hospital has been recognized for its mercury and other environmental reduction achievements. The Worcester-based hospital has been accepted as a participant in both the agency's "Partners for Change" program which encourages New England businesses and municipalities to explore and implement responsible environmental practices in return for EPA recognition, and the "Partners for Change Mercury Challenge" program, which encourages New England medical facilities to lead the nation in eliminating mercury and mercury-containing waste by 2003 in return for EPA recognition.

EPA is recognizing the hospital under the Mercury Challenge program for its mercury reduction plan, which includes replacing wall-mounted blood pressure units in patient areas by August 2000, replacing mercoid switches in thermostats with non-mercury switches, purchasing low mercury content lighting, purchasing zero mercury added batteries, stopping the purchase of oral/rectal mercury thermometers and replacing mercury esophageal dilators with a non-mercury alternative.

EPA is recognizing the hospital under the Partners for Change program for its alkaline battery recycling program launched in June 1998. Saint Vincent is building upon its commitment to improve environmental responsibility through recycling programs. The hospital has instituted several recycling programs over the years including: a reduction of regulated medical (red bag) waste program in 1996; a wood recycling program in December 1993; paper recycling in 1994; and cardboard recycling in 1990.

Mercury is a highly toxic, naturally occurring metal that moves between water, air and soil as a result of natural and human activities. The primary health effects of mercury are in the neurological development of children exposed through fish consumption and fetuses exposed through their mother's consumption of fish. Removing mercury thermometers and other mercury-containing equipment from the health care industry waste stream is one of the most effective methods of reducing the amount of mercury in the environment.

"Widespread exposure to mercury is one of the most serious environmental health risks in New England," said Mindy S. Lubber, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office, which last year mailed letters to 276 health care facilities in New England challenging them to eliminate mercury and mercury containing waste by the year 2003. "Medical facilities can make a major difference in helping to reduce mercury in the environment. This effort by the Saint Vincent Hospital is a major step forward in achieving this goal."

"Partners for Change" is open to any business, municipality or organized group in New England. Small businesses are especially encouraged to apply. To be recognized as a partner, an organization must implement a project or activity that results in a long-term environmentally beneficial change to its daily operations. Such efforts can include waste reduction practices, recycling programs or other efforts that help green the work place.

The Partners for Change Mercury Challenge - a branch of Partners for Change recognition program - is designed to promote voluntary, measurable mercury reductions at medical facilities. Medical facilities commit to meeting their own specified mercury reduction goals and agree to make good faith voluntary effort to identify and implement prevention measures. To be recognized as a partner, a medical facility must have a mercury inventory, a quantifiable mercury reduction goal, an action plan and must report on progress made toward achieving its goal.

In return for joining the programs, partners receive a certificate, window decal, and publicity from the EPA. In addition, partners are featured in a partners-to-partners directory that lists all participating organizations and supporting organizations.

To sign up for Partners for Change or Partners for Change Mercury Challenge, or for more information about the program call 1-888-372-7341. Request the "Mercury Challenge environmental pocketbook," a resource guide with useful tips on mercury reduction, as well as phone, e-mail and worldwide web listings of EPA help lines. The pocketbook also includes program requirements and an application.