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The Initiative

Health Care Without Harm and the World Health Organization are co-leading a global initiative to achieve virtual elimination of mercury-based thermometers and sphygmomanometers over the next decade and their substitution with accurate, economically viable alternatives.

The initiative is a component of the UN Environment Programme's Mercury Products Partnership.

Technical Guidance on Substituting Mercury Thermometers and Sphygmomanometers

Click on the image to download the Report

Mercury-Free Health Care Two-Year Progress Report

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News and Events

31 January 2014
WHO Executive Board Passes Resolution on Mercury

The World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board  recommended that the 67th World Health Assembly pass a resolution on the role that WHO and ministries of public health should play in the implementation of the Minamata Convention, which sets out internationally legally binding measures to address the risks of mercury and mercury compounds on human health and the environment.

The Resolution encourages ministries take the necessary domestic measures to promptly sign, ratify and implement the Minamata Convention on Mercury as they address the health aspects of exposure to mercury and mercury compounds in the context of the health sector uses. Download Resolution

28 January 2014
Brazil | Sâo Paulo State Bans Mercury-Based Measuring Devices

On January 15th, Sâo Paulo State banned the use, storage and repair of mercury-based instruments, such as sphygmomanometers and thermometers. The Law 15.313/2014 (in Portuguese) establishes a two-year period to phase-out and replace all mercury-containing devices and applies to all kinds of hospitals, health services or any kind of organizations, public or private.

This Law is a successful step forward in achieving the Minamata Convention's goal to end the manufacture, import and export of mercury-based medical devices and achieving mercury-free health care by 2020, an initiative launched by Health Care Without Harm and the World Health Organization.

11 October 2013

World's Governments Sign Mercury Treaty - Mercury Free Health Care by 2020

As the world’s governments were signing a global treaty aimed at phasing out the use and emissions of mercury, Health Care Without Harm and the World Health Organization got straight to work and launched an initiative to achieve the Minamata Convention’s goal to end the manufacture, import and export of mercury-based medical devices by 2020.

8 October 2013

Health and the Minamata Convention on Mercury | WHO Side Event

As part of a side event at the Diplomatic Conference of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the WHO-HCWH Global Initiative for Mercury-Free Healthcare will be launching a new target of 2020 for the worldwide substitution of mercury measuring devices in health care.  Click here to download the announcement for the side event.

30 July 2013

New Guidance on Maintaining and Calibrating Non-Mercury Clinical Thermometers and Sphygmomanometers

A new guidance issued by UNDP GEF Global Healthcare Waste Project presents general procedures for maintaining and calibrating common types of non-mercury thermometers and sphygmomanometers to make sure that they function and can be used properly.

The guidance is intended for users of non-mercury devices in healthcare facilities, health ministries and institutions that set standards and requirements for medical devices and for group purchasing organizations. Download Guidance

18 April 2013

Brazil | Mercury Free Seminars in Salvador, Recife and Brasilia

HCWH and partner organization Projecto Hospitais Saudaveis organized a series of Mercury Free Health Care seminars in the cities of Salvador, Recife. A third seminar also co-sponsored by the Pan American Health Organization PAHO / WHO, took place in Brasilia and focused in raising awareness about the dangers associated with exposure to mercury and methylmercury in the health care sector.

These seminars are part of a joint effort by several public and private institutions to raise awareness and prepare the health sector to meet the challenge of global phase-out of mercury. Read more (in Portuguese)

26 February 2013

Mongolia | 14 Hospitals Go Mercury Free

In January 2011, the Ministry of Health and the National Emergency Management Agency of Mongolia issued a Joint Order to ban further procurement of the mercury containing thermometers, sphygmomanometers and dental amalgam.

Together with the Join Order, a pilot project to eliminate the use mercury in the local healthcare sector was initiated in 2011 with the support of the World Health Organization.  In 2012 this initiative was scaled up: led by the National Public Center’s Toxicology Laboratory, a survey on mercury use and contamination was carried out in 16 tertiary and secondary hospitals in Ulaanbaatar. As a result, 14 hospitals were announced mercury-free and received a Certificate from Mongolia's Vice Minister of Health. Read more

13 February 2013

Sri Lanka | Health Ministry to Remove Mercury-containing Medical Equipment From Hospitals

Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health has issued a circular instructing all Provincial Health Directors, Regional Health Directors, Hospital Directors and Medical Health Officers to gradually remove mercury-containing equipment from use to minimize the environmental exposure to mercury in accordance with global guidelines. The mercury-containing equipment in hospitals including old thermometers and blood pressure measuring devices (sphygmomanometers) will be replaced by new digital equipment. Read more

19 January 2013

World's Governments Agree to Mercury-Free Healthcare in 2020

Phase-Out Date and Mandate for Mercury Thermometers and Blood Pressure Devices

Geneva — The world’s governments have finalized text for a global legally binding treaty on mercury, the bio-accumulative heavy metal that is poisoning the world’s fish supply, threatening public health and the environment. Among other measures, the treaty text mandates an end to the manufacture, import and export of mercury thermometers and blood pressure devices (sphygmomanometers) by 2020. Read Full Press Release

January 2013

China | Hospital Launches Pilot Project to Eliminate Mercury-Containing Medical Devices

After the successful pilot implementation of the substitution of mercury containing medical devices in Qinhuangdao Maternity and Child Healthcare Hospital (QMCHH) launched in August 2011, Qinhuangdao Cerebrovascular Disease Hospital (QCDH) is the second hospital in the city to conduct mercury-containing medical devices substitution.

The project is being supported by international organizations such as Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) as well as by national organizations such as Qinhuangdao Municipal Committee of China National Democratic Construction Association (QMCCNDCA), Sino-Union Create of Qinhuangdao (SUCQ) and Global Village of Beijing Environmental Education Center (GVB).

Qinhuangdao Cerebrovascular Disease Hospital is one of the few hospitals in China that is conducting mercury-containing medical devices substitution. The announcement is a positive step forward in contributing to global efforts to substitute mercury-based medical devices while protecting China's health professionals, patients and the environment from the negative impacts of mercury.


The launch ceremony of "Zero mercury" in Qinhuangdao Cerebrovascular Disease Hospital conference room


The Issue

Mercury, one of the world's most ubiquitous heavy metal neurotoxicants, has been an integral part of many medical devices, most prominently thermometers and sphygmomanometers.

These devices break or leak with regularity, adding to the global burden of mercury in the environment and exposing health care workers to the acute effects of the metal itself.

The health care sector around the world is moving to replace mercury-based medical devices with affordable, accurate and safer alternatives.

Mercury Elimination Guides for Hospitals
(available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese)


Training Video on Mercury Waste in Hospitals
(produced by HCWH with support from UNEP and the government of Norway)



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