Halting Imports and Exports of Medical Devices with Mercury is Aim of New Pact
The World Health Organization is calling on countries to phase out mercury fever thermometers and blood pressure devices containing mercury by 2020 by ending the manufacture, importation and exportation of these devices and supporting the deployment of safer alternatives. In addition, WHO and its health sector partners have pledged to work to phase out mercury topical antiseptics and mercury skin-lightening cosmetics, develop public health strategies to address the health impacts of mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining, develop measures to phase down the use of dental amalgam, and encourage health information exchange, public awareness raising and health research.
According to a WHO press release, the Mercury-Free Healthcare by 2020 initiative was launched last week in conjunction with the adoption of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which provides a blueprint for country action to eliminate the most harmful forms of mercury use, reduce mercury emissions from industry, promote mercury-free methods, protect children and women of childbearing age from mercury exposure, and improve workers’ health and well-being. While this convention allows countries to continue to use mercury in medical measuring devices until 2030 under certain circumstances, the WHO believes that the potential negative health consequences from mercury are so great that “all should strive to meet the main target date of 2020 set out in the Convention.”
The press release notes that the Minamata Convention is now open for signature by member states and regional economic integration organizations until Oct. 9, 2014.