New Delhi: The US will help India reduce high levels of mercury found in the air in hospitals which threaten the health of patients and medical staff, an environmental official said on 3 April.
Mercury, sometimes called quicksilver, is highly toxic and exposure can damage the brain, nervous system and foetuses. Speaking to Indian industry representatives, Stephen Johnson, administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said the US policy of reducing the use of mercury containing instruments could be mimicked in India.
“The EPA has worked to reduce mercury from hospitals in the United States and in fact around the world. We see this initiative as an opportunity to protect your residents from the threats of mercury,” said Johnson.
Air samples in hospitals contained mercury levels which were on average almost seven times higher than recommended levels, a recent study by New Delhi-based environmental group Toxics Link showed.
Environmentalists say the high levels of the heavy metal in air in hospitals comes from the breakages of instruments like thermometers and blood pressure tools.
Johnson told representatives from some of India’s top hospital groups that the US would help doctors to make the transition from mercury-based medical tools to digital instruments which have the same precision and cost.
“We have new technology that uses safer materials that are just as accurate, if not more accurate, in assessing one’s health, so this is a great opportunity,” said Johnson.