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India Joins $134-Million Global Initiative to Eliminate Mercury-Containing Medical Devices

India joins hands with other nations in a $134-million project aimed at eliminating mercury from medical devices, in a significant step towards safeguarding public health and the environment.

Saurabh Shukla
India Joins $134-Million Global Initiative to Eliminate Mercury-Containing Medical Devices (Photo Source: Pixabay)
India Joins $134-Million Global Initiative to Eliminate Mercury-Containing Medical Devices (Photo Source: Pixabay)

The governments of India, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Montenegro, and Albania have united to address the use of mercury in medical devices in a major effort to prevent chemical pollution and protect public health. With a whopping investment of $134 million, the project seeks to address the long-standing threat posed by this toxic metal to both human health and the environment.

Mercury, a toxic metal known for its harmful effects on human health and the environment, has been widely used in healthcare for centuries. While medical devices containing mercury, such as thermometers and blood pressure monitors, are harmless when intact, they pose serious risks if broken or improperly disposed of. Inhalation of mercury vapor can lead to damage to the lungs, kidneys, and nervous system, posing significant health hazards to both healthcare workers and patients.

The initiative, spearheaded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), backed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and executed by the World Health Organization (WHO), aims to develop and implement comprehensive strategies to eliminate mercury-containing devices from healthcare facilities. This includes halting their import, export, and manufacture, promoting the adoption of safe alternatives, and enhancing the management of mercury waste. The initiative also seeks to promote the adoption of accurate, affordable, and safe mercury-free alternatives while enhancing the management of mercury-containing medical waste.

India, a key participant in the project, recognizes the importance of addressing mercury pollution in healthcare facilities. Over the course of five years, the project will align each participating country with international best practices, advocating for the adoption of accurate and affordable mercury-free alternatives. With the endorsement of WHO recommendations and the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the initiative aims to raise awareness among procurement officers, manufacturers, and the public about the benefits of transitioning away from mercury-based devices.

One significant aspect of the project is the promotion of digital thermometers as a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to mercury-based devices. Digital thermometers offer comparable clinical accuracy at a fraction of the cost, making them an attractive option for healthcare facilities seeking to phase out mercury-containing instruments.

Dr. Anta Zida, Director of Public Hygiene at Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene, highlighted the life-saving impact of eliminating mercury from medical devices. She highlighted the project's role in protecting both human health and the environment, underscoring the importance of international collaboration in achieving sustainable healthcare practices.

Dr. Maria Neira, Director of Climate Change, Environment, and Health at WHO, highlighted the essential role of the healthcare sector in promoting sustainability and public health.

The project aims to achieve a phased reduction of mercury-added thermometers and sphygmomanometers by 20 percent annually, thereby preventing approximately 23,350 kilograms of mercury spillage and enhancing the lives of over 1.8 million individuals.

As part of the project's objectives, participating countries aim to achieve a phased reduction of mercury-containing thermometers and sphygmomanometers, leading to significant environmental and health benefits. The program aims to decrease the hazards associated with mercury contamination while furthering the global objective of sustainable healthcare through a gradual shift to alternatives free of mercury.

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