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Alternatives to Mercury

Cost-effective alternatives exist for virtually every mercury-containing product used in the health care setting. An excellent tool for researching mercury alternatives is the Sustainable Hospitals Project website. This website provides detailed specifications on alternatives to certain toxic products in the health care sector, including mercury, PVC, and latex, as well as contact information for vendors.

Mercury Thermometers in Your Hospital and Home 
Many of us grew up with mercury fever thermometers — those thin glass tubes filled with silver liquid — in our homes and hospitals. But we now know these devices can cause a serious health threat if they break, spill, or leak. For this reason, most hospitals and pharmacies are no longer using or selling mercury fever thermometers. A variety of mercury-free fever thermometers are available, including battery and solar powered digital thermometers.

For more information, see HCWH's Thermometer Fact Sheet (pdf)

Measuring Blood Pressure Accurately Without Mercury 
Does accurate blood pressure reading depend on mercury? A 2002 New York Times article wrongly blamed blood pressure measurement problems on mercury phase outs. A report from the Health Care Research Collaborative analysizes The Accuracy of Alternatives to Mercury Sphygmomanometers (pdf). 

Additional Sources of Mercury Pollution 
In addition to medical devices such as thermometers and sphygmomanometers, mercury is also found in lab chemicals, fluorescent light bulbs, and other products commonly used in the health care setting. For a complete list of products that may contain mercury, see the HCWH fact sheet: Instruments, Products, and Laboratory Chemicals Used in Hospitals That May Contain Mercury. 

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