WHO campaigns to phase out mercury in medical devices

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched an initiative for the removal of mercury from all medical measuring devices by the year 2020.

The initiative 'Mercury-Free Healthcare by 2020', calls for the phasing out of  fever thermometers and blood pressure devices containing mercury.

WHO says this will be done by ending the manufacture, import and export of these devices and by supporting the deployment of accurate, affordable, and safer non-mercury alternatives.

The initiative was launched following the signing earlier this week of the Minamata Convention on Mercury which provides a blueprint for country action to eliminate the most harmful forms of mercury use.

Mercury and its various compounds are of global public health concern and have a range of serious health impacts, including brain and neurological damage especially among the young. Others include damage to the kidneys and the digestive system.

While the Minamata Convention allows countries to continue to use mercury in medical measuring devices until 2030 under certain special circumstances, WHO is urging states to eliminate the chemical as soon as practicable given its potential negative health consequences.

WHO and its health sector partners have also agreed to work towards the elimination of mercury in beauty products and also develop public health strategies to address the health impacts of mercury use in small-scale gold mining.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

Duration 1:30″

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