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EPA Salutes Wing Memorial Hospital and Medical Centers for Mercury Reduction Efforts

Release Date: 03/27/2000
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office (617-918-1008)

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced that Wing Memorial Hospital and Medical Centers in Palmer have been recognized for mercury reduction achievements. The hospital has been accepted as a participant in the agency's "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 and medical centers under the Mercury Challenge program for its mercury reduction plan which includes: 1) finding an alternative to patient thermometers that contain mercury or recycling these items if no suitable alternative can be found; 2) recycling switches that contain mercury when the switches are replaced; 3) finding alternatives to lab reagents that contain mercury; 4) developing policies for purchasing products that do not contain mercury. The hospital has already replaced all flourescent lights with non-mercury units. In addition, all mercury batteries were replaced with safer products.

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 Wing Memorial Hospital and Medical Centers is a major step forward in achieving this goal."

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.