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Release Date: 08/12/1999
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office (617-918-1008)

BOSTON -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that the N.H. Hospital Association has been accepted as a "supporting organization" in the agency's new "Partners for Change Mercury Challenge." The Partners for Change Mercury Challenge encourages New England medical facilities to lead the nation in eliminating mercury and mercury-containing waste by 2003 in return for EPA recognition.

The N.H. Hospital Association represents 35 New Hampshire hospitals and 44 corporate members. The Concord, N.H.-based group is being recognized for holding an educational seminar entitled "Greening New Hampshire Hospitals" and for its continued marketing of the Mercury Challenge Program to its members through newsletters and a web site.

Mercury is 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 on 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 John P. DeVillars, EPA's New England Administrator, who earlier this year sent out letters to 276 health care facilities in New England challenging them to eliminate mercury and mercury containing wastes by the year 2003. "Medical facilities can make a major difference in helping to reduce mercury in the environment. This effort by the N.H. Hospital Association 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 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 program, 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 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.