We have been working to rid our system of mercury since 2000 when the American Hospital Association recommended that member hospitals become mercury-free by 2005. The Ecology director at our corporate office in California at the St. Joseph Healthcare System suggested we set our goal to be virtually mercury-free by December 31, 2004. February 2004, The Green Team was established to oversee any environmental issue or project at Covenant Health System Lubbock. A mercury inventory of all mercury containing items were identified. 1206 mercury containing blood pressure wall mounts and roll units with one fourth pound of mercury per unit amounted to 301 pounds of mercury hanging on our walls, waiting for a spill. 20 sets of Mercury containing esophageal dialators were identified in year 2000 and slowly replaced at $3500 per set to equal $70,000. We stopped purchasing mercury containing thermometers in April 2004. Mercury containing chemicals and other items were identified with a plan to dispose or phase out if non-mercury alternative existed. Mercury items with no non-mercury alternative were identified. 10 mercury spills occur per year. Most occur in patient rooms due to patient tampering of the mercury blood pressure monitor on the wall. We have had one documented mercury spill this year in May.
We have involved purchasing to have a mercury-free purchase plan to prevent mercury products from entering our facility. We have identified and purchased many mercury alternatives for esophageal dialators and blood pressure monitors.
Total Cost Savings: $5,580.00
Comments: Cost of the project:
Tungsten esophageal dilators are $3500 per set. 20 sets replaced $70,000
Non-mercury thermometers $1,000
Non-mercury blood pressure monitors (Aneroids)
150 ($79/wall) $11,850
359 ($158/roll) $56,722
90 ($30/manual cuff) $2,700
Contract labor for
removal/replacement 107 hours $3,500
Labor estimate of in-house staff $3,500
Disposal of drained mercury
and mercury debris $5,000
Grand Total Estimate $154,272
Average mercury spill labor, supplies and associated costs $20,000 per year.
Cost recovery of project should be seven years.
Details of Reductions
Comments: 100% of mercury was elminated from the hospital. Approximate total cost for implementing the project was $112,359. It cost approximately $18 per pound of mercury for disposal, which does not include labor or transportation.
Comments: Lowering or eliminating mercury use, lowers the hazardous waste volume created which helps the environment as a whole to prevent pollution. Biotransformation of mercury into our food source, like fish, is the most toxic form of mercury poisoning. Simply deciding not to use mercury products will cause a trickle-down process and collectively eliminate mercury from our water sources through leaching or perculation to the water table or to our lakes. Water treatment systems (Publically Owned Treatment of Waste or POTW) can not eliminate mercury and other heavy metals from our water sources.