Health care sector major contributor of mercury pollution

Mercury, a rare element embedded in Earth’s crust, is typically spewed into the atmosphere from volcanic action.

Today, it’s extracted from Earth and shared globally for the creation of many modern day products including fluorescent bulbs, batteries, thermometers, thermostats and many medical products like dental amalgams, blood pressure devices and vaccinations.

In fact, the “health care” sector alone has become a major source of mercury pollution itself, responsible for billowing tons of incinerated mercury into the atmosphere or releasing it into sewage systems.

Today, human generated mercury pollution can actually match volcanic mercury pollution, doubling what is naturally spewed into the environment. Toxic mercury emissions today are generally derived from stationary combustion, such as coal-fired power plants, gold and metal production and sewage waste incineration.

The mercury source that has gone under the radar

While it’s important to prevent mercury release by recycling auto parts, especially batteries, there are many other bad mainstream habits that go unnoticed. This includes practices from the mainstream “health care” sector. In a 1997 report, the EPA indicated that medical waste incineration accounts for as much as 10 percent of mercury pollution in the air.

Dental practices are a major source of the medical industry’s mercury pollution. Dental amalagams, which consists of mercury and metal alloys, account for a third of mercurywaste pollution in many sewage systems, as estimated by Environment Canada. Even the World Health Organization has stated that dental amalgams are the number one source of mercury vapor in non-industrialized areas.

For example, in the United Kingdom, reports from the OSPAR Commission (Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic), relay that dental amalagams are responsible for a gigantic annual dose of 7.41 tons of mercury into the UK countryside alone, polluting sewer, atmosphere and land. On top of that, another 11.5 tons is disposed through the clinical waste stream.

Studies also indicate that used health care equipment, when broken or disposed, is also responsible for mercury waste pollution. Instruments like the blood pressure reader (sphygmomanometers) harbor the greatest amount of mercury in the health care sector. 80 to 100 grams are stored in these machines. With their widespread use, tons of mercury is just waiting to be dumped when the machines break down.

Making strides toward a mercury-free health care industry

While the European Union has banned the production of home mercury thermometers since 2008, there still exist greater concerns. Can the widespread application of mercury in the health care sector be replaced by something less toxic? Tons of amalagam mercury waste could be prevented. One day, patients might not have to harbor toxic mercury fillings right in their own mouths. One day, the people may refuse injections of the metal right in the arm.

In the past decade, health care sectors across the world have taken vital steps to rid mercury from equipment and practices. In Argentina and Delhi, the Minister of Health has announced an official mercury phase out, setting up a commission to address the mercury situation in dental practices. Argentina, along with the Philippines and Uruguay, has also issued a resolution requiring all their hospitals to buy sphygmomanometers and thermometers that are free of mercury. Non-mercury products are to replace the old, toxic devices when they break. Many aneroid devices are replacing old sphygmomanometers. Two major US manufacturers have halted their production of the old mercury-loaded blood pressure monitors.

But people are still injecting themselves with mercury

As the health care industry replaces mercury, why does it still use the toxic heavy metal in many flu shot injections?

As a global awakening grows, why is modern medicine still using mercury in its vaccinations? It’s bad enough that mercury waste is incinerated into the environment, so why does the health care industry routinely inject people with the toxic metal? Flu shot advertising is bad enough, lying to people about how the human immune system works. Shooting up mercury during the fabled process is just outright insanity.

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