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PIA Press Release
2010/03/04

Mercury phase-out, ban not to be cause of panic

Envi-health group issues mercury storage guidelines for household

Davao City (4 March) -- In response to Department of Health's move to fast track mercury phase-out in the health care sector, environmental health group, Health Care Without Harm-Southeast Asia (HCWH-SEA) today tried to pacify the general public saying that mercury phase-out or ban must not be a cause of panic.

The group likewise issued guidelines on properly storing mercury in household while awaiting guidelines from DOH.

Since the DoH intensified its call to phase-out mercury thermometers and sphygmomanometers and possibly ban its entry to the country, the envi-health group received several calls asking about the disposal of mercury thermometers from households.

The general public is now aware of the dangers of mercury and everyone wants mercury out of their houses at the soonest possible time said Faye Ferrer, HCWH-SEA Program Officer for Mercury in Health Care. "We, however, would like to appeal to the public that the best to do right now is to keep your existing mercury thermometers in a safe place at your homes."

While the health care sector has clear guidelines on how to properly store the phased-out mercury devices, there are no existing guidelines yet on the mercurial devices from households.

DOH issued a statement saying the general public may bring their mercury thermometers to government hospitals and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB); however the guidelines are yet to be released.

HCWH-SEA is likewise calling on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to address an intermediate disposal area for the phased-out mercury devices from health care and those from homes.

Interim storage for mercury

Although mercury is the last thing that people would want to keep in their homes, in the absence of a clear option for storage, temporarily keeping it without using it is by far the best option for now said Ferrer. Another of course is an immediate ban so that the public can no longer buy mercurial devices.

Below are guidelines on temporary storing mercurial thermometers and even mercury-containing batteries at home:

(1) Place in clear plastic bag and seal the bag. Make sure there are no cracks on the thermometers.
(2) Mark the bag: MERCURY POISON! DO NOT OPEN!
(3) Place the bag in an unbreakable plastic container.
(4) Keep in a safe place out of children's reach.
(5) Place container in cool well-ventilated dry place.
(6) Remember where you place them.

"This simple guideline must be followed while we are waiting for a more centralized intermediate storage from our government agencies," Ferrer pointed out.

For spent fluorescent lamps containing mercury:

(1) Put in its original box and properly label and seal to prevent leakage in case the lamp breaks. Or better yet, place them in a storage where it will not fall or tip over. Store it in a cool dry place.

(2) In case the lamp breaks, do not use vacuum cleaner. Instead, place the broken glass in a closed container.

(3) Remember that it is best to just keep the spent fluorescent lamp safely stored in your home than to dispose it through garbage trucks. Sadly, we still do not have the capacity to safely recycle fluorescent lamps.

In cases of small mercury spills

(1) Evacuate the area. Open all windows to air the place and turn off interior ventilation system to avoid dispersing mercury vapor.

(2) Wear protective face mask.

(3) Wear clothes and shoes that may be discarded when contaminated.

(4) Remove jewelry so that it will not combine with the mercury.

(5) Wear rubber or latex gloves. Place broken objects on a paper towel then onto a lock bag, properly labeled.

(6) Identify the surface. Wood, linoleum and tiles may be easily cleaned while carpets, curtains and upholstery should be immediately disposed.

(7) Locate mercury beads. Carefully gather them together using a cardboard.

(8) Use eyedropper and sticky tape to pick-up the beads and then transfer it to an airtight-lid plastic container. Put in a zip-lock bag, properly labeled.

(9) Put all cleanup gloves and clothing in a leak-proof bag.

(10) Contact hospitals for advice on final disposal.

(11) Keep the area ventilated from the outside for at least 24 hours after the successful clean-up. (PIA) [top]

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