Phasing out of mercury-based health supplies pushed-A A +A
Saturday, May 15, 2010
AN INTERNATIONAL organization visited Cagayan de Oro Friday to check and update the region's compliance and heighten public awareness for Administrative Order No. 2008-0021 (AO 21) of the Department of Health (DOH).
The Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) is an international organization composed of hospitals and health care systems, medical professionals, community groups, health-affected constituencies, labor unions, environmental health organizations and religious groups.
The AO 21 mandates all health care facilities, both private and public to include hospitals, infirmaries, birthing homes and health care centers in the country, to eradicate the use of mercury-containing medical paraphernalia, specifically sphygmomanometers and glass thermometers, in rendering health care services to patients.
The said AO took effect in September 2008 and is expected that by September 11, 2010, no single health care facility at all levels in the Philippines will use mercury sphygmomanometers and glass thermometers to their patients.
On Friday, the HCWH held a region-wide forum on AO 21 that centered on the gradual phasing out of toxic mercury at De Luxe Hotel in Cagayan de Oro, which is the ninth of the 17 recipient regions for the forum.
During the forum, the hazards on the usage of other mercury-containing products such as fluorescent lamps, dental amalgam and common household cleaners were raised and given attention by the HCWH.
Even the suggestion of having a "take back policy" was also pointed out which requires the companies and cooperatives to take responsibility with their products, even in its afterlife or expiry.
Banning the importation of all mercury-containing products was also highlighted in the forum, which will be implemented in June this year.
"This kind of information drive is important to inform everybody, specifically medical practitioners, about the total phasing out of these products (mercury thermometers and sphygmomanometers) in health care facilities," said Faye Ferrer, program officer for the Mercury Minimization Program of HCWH.
She said that in other regions she visited, people are not yet well-informed about AO 21.
Mercury has long been used in health care facilities in measuring the patient's temperature and blood pressure through the thermometers and sphygmomanometers.
Ferrer said potential hazards of mercury exposure by accidental mercury spills are part of the daily lives of health care practitioners.
"A gram of mercury, the same amount contained in one thermometer, is enough to contaminate 81,000 square meters of waterlake. Mercury spills in health care institutions expose patients and health workers to mercury, possibly causing lung damage at high doses," Ferrer said.
She said AO 21 does not cover learning institutions like schools of nursing and related fields.
"But since (nursing and paramedical) students will be affiliating in hospitals, which are covered by AO 21, during their tour of duty, they would have to comply with hospital policies and this includes not bringing within hospital premises mercury-containing paraphernalia," she says.
When this paper conducted a survey on pharmacies within the Divisoria area, it was found out that mercury-containing thermometers and sphygmomanometers are still being sold.
A staff of Mercury Drug Store said they are aware of AO 21 though she admitted they still sell mercury-based thermometers and sphygmomanometers.
"But we are still waiting for direct orders from our central office in Manila regarding the implementation of AO 21," the staff said, who requested not to be named. (Paul John Vesagas, Sarah Jane B. Ditucalan and Mera Princess Arpilleda)