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EPA Salutes Harrington Memorial Hospital in Southbridge 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 the Harrington Memorial Hospital in Southbridge has 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 Harrington Memorial Hospital under the Mercury Challenge program for its mercury reduction achievements, including the elimination of mercury products in its pharmacy. In addition, the hospital is investigating vendors to help with recycling mercury products currently in use. The hospital also is considering the replacement of mercury sphygmomanometers. The hospital's laboratory had already undertaken eliminating many mercury containing products from its department.

The hospital's goals include developing a cradle to grave (purchase to disposal) policy for mercury containing products and expanding mercury recycling efforts to include a larger number of mercury containing 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 Harrington Memorial Hospital is a major step forward in achieving this goal."

The Partners for Change Mercury Challenge - a branch of EPA's 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 efforts 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.