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HCWH and the Philippine Mercury Watch Countdown to 2010

Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) is an international coalition of hospitals and health care systems, medical professionals, community groups, health-affected constituencies, labor unions, environmental and environmental health organizations and religious groups that works to implement ecologically sound and healthy alternatives to health care practices that pollute the environment and contribute to disease.

The following is the Mercury Watch Countdown Support Statement that can be found in the HCWH website.

Please SIGN THE PLEDGE to show your support. All you have to do is put in your First and Last Name, your e-mail and an Organization.:

Whereas, Mercury, a natural occurring heavy metal, is dangerous to people to wildlife and to the environment. It is a global contaminant that causes serious health and environmental harm.

Whereas, Mercury-containing devices although the common choice in hospitals, is nonetheless a potent neurotoxin that endangers the life of people not just in hospital settings. According to The Global Movement for Mercury-Free Health Care Report, ever since the start of the industrial era, the total amount of mercury circulating in the world’s atmosphere, soil, lakes, streams and ocean has increased by a factor of between two and four.

Whereas, Mercury is fatal when inhaled and harmful if absorbed through the skin. High doses of vapors released by thermometer breakage may cause lung damage. While at lower doses it is harmful to the kidney and the nervous, digestive, respiratory and immune systems.

Whereas, The danger of mercury is innumerable and countries around the world are moving towards a mercury-free society.

Whereas, The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) formulated a Mercury Program designed to raise awareness of the global environmental hazards of mercury after its Governing Council concluded that there is sufficient evidence of significant global adverse impacts from mercury to warrant further international action.

Whereas, The World Health Organization (WHO) reported as early as 1991 that there is no safe level of mercury exposure. In a policy paper they issued, it presented 3-pronged short, medium and long-term measures that include (a) development and implementation of plans to reduce the use of mercury equipment and replace it with alternatives, (b) increase efforts to reduce the risk of unnecessary mercury equipment in hospitals and (c) a ban of mercury-containing devices and promotion of alternatives.

Whereas, The Philippine Department of Health (DoH) in August 11, 2008 signed Administrative Order 21 mandating the gradual phase-out of all mercury-containing devices in all Philippine health care facilities and institutions by 2010. However, temporary storage of mercury-devices are still to be determined.

Whereas, The World Medical Association, recognizing the global adverse impact of mercury, signed in November 2008 a Statement on Reducing the Global Burden of Mercury in its General Assembly in Seoul, Korea.

Whereas, In December 2008, WHO and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) signed a global partnership to substitute mercury-based medical devices with safer, accurate and affordable alternatives by 2017.

Whereas, In February 2009 at the recent meeting of the UNEP Governing Council, more than 140 countries have agreed to launch negotiations on a legally-binding treaty by 2013 to deal with world-wide emissions and discharges of mercury.

Whereas, Mercury alternatives have proven to be effective and the most feasible alternative, given the clean-up cost of mercury spills and the danger it poses to the environment.

Whereas, Mercury alternatives are available in the Philippines and are now being used by hospitals who have welcomed the move towards mercury-free system.

Thus, we, recognizing the urgency of the issue, do hereby attach our name and signature and avow our commitment to HCWH’s Mercury Watch and serve as a watchdog that will guide the Philippine health care system walk through the gradual phase-out of all mercury-containing devices by 2010.

Further, acknowledging the necessity of a temporary storage area for phased-out mercury devices from hospitals, we urge the Department of Natural Resources to identify such facility as stipulated in the DENR-DOH Joint Administrative Order.

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