Philippines: 727 hospitals phase out mercury-containing devices
November 10th, 2010
MANILA, Philippines-More than 700 hospitals all over the country have so far conformed with a Department of Health (DoH) order for the gradual phaseout of all medical devices containing mercury, a nongovernment environmental health group said Tuesday.
Health Care Without Harm-Southeast Asia (Hcwh-Sea) Tuesday released a report showing the progress of compliance with a DoH order, issued in 2008, to phase out all devices containing mercury and switch to alternative ones. These include mercury thermometers and mercury sphygmomanometers.
Of the 824 hospitals that responded to the group's study, 727 health care facilities said they had started implementing the DoH directive.
The study was conducted from January to July, covering 1,851 health care facilities across the country. Of these, only 717 hospitals and 107 rural health units responded.
The survey further showed that out of the 497 hospital-respondents in Mindanao, 230 have started phasing out health products containing the highly toxic substance.
"This puts Mindanao ahead of Luzon, with 444 hospital-respondents phasing out mercury out of 1,086 hospitals, and 53 in the Visayas out of 268 hospitals," the report said.
"Taking into consideration the geographical location of Mindanao, which is far from the DoH central office, the turnout of respondents, as well as the close to 50-percent mercury phase-out status is exemplary," said Faye Ferrer, Hcwh-Sea program officer for mercury in health care.
"We, however, encourage the DoH not to be lax with this result," Ferrer said in a statement. She noted that the dismal score of Luzon and the Visayas could be due to the low rate of return of survey forms.
At ambient temperature and pressure, Mercury, a silvery-white liquid and naturally occurring heavy metal, could readily vaporize and may stay in the atmosphere for up to a year, health officials warned.
Mercury could be fatal if inhaled and is dangerous if absorbed through the skin. It is harmful to the nervous, respiratory and immune systems, among others. Exposure to mercury can also cause paralysis, tremors, impaired vision and hearing, and insomnia, among others.