Preventing Mercury Pollution

C. Alpena General Hospital (Michigan, August 1995)

Alpena General began instituting mercury pollution prevention measures approximately eight years ago by adopting a purchasing a policy that eliminated mercury-containing items such as thermometers and sphygmomanometeres. In addition, the institution purchases only mercury-free batteries from suppliers, and items such as thimerosal-free saline solution are being used.

Alpena's laboratory conducted its own study on mercury in solvents to determine where mercury was originating. It was necessary to follow this procedure because manufacturers might not list the solvents' ingredients if the formula is under copyright protection. Material Safety Data Sheets might not list mercury in a solvent if amounts are too small or if the formula is protected. After completing roughly 350 analyses, Alpena contacted their suppliers and requested that mercury-free solvents be supplied. Analyses were completed by examining lab results and testing and cleaning drain traps. This last method is currently used as a spot-check system to isolate any mercury discharges. Wastes generated within the institution are separated, and disposed of according regulations. The institution has a procedure policy on spill prevention and management in case of mercury spills or leakages.

Alpena provides an ongoing educational and advisement program with those departments directly involved in mercury pollution prevention, such as advising the nursing department to check for materials that may contain mercury like thimerosal-containing saline solution. The plant superintendent has the responsibility of seeing that all mercury pollution prevention measures are being instituted, as well as cleaning the drain traps and testing for mercury residues.

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