Mercury-Free Healthcare 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.

This Initiative is based on the 2005 WHO Policy Paper which calls for short, medium and long-term steps to achieve the gradual substitution of mercury-based medical devices. It is also grounded in Health Care Without Harm's more than ten years of experience working with the health care sector, national governments and intergovernmental organizations in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America to successfully achieve mercury substitution.

The Initiative is a component of the UN Environment Programme's (UNEP) Mercury Products Partnership, which is led by the US Environmental Protection Agency. This broader UNEP Products Partnership seeks action to eliminate mercury in products such as batteries, lighting and lamps, electrical and electronic devices, dental products, and measuring and control devices.

With specific regard to the WHO/HCWH Health Care Initiative, the Products Partnership has set the following objective:

By 2017, to phase out the demand for mercury-containing fever thermometers and sphygmomanometers by at least 70% and to shift the production of all mercury-containing fever thermometers and sphygmomanometers to accurate, affordable, and safer non-mercury alternatives.

As part of this effort HCWH, with support from UNEP and WHO, has organized a series of regional conferences on alternatives to mercury in health care. These events, which took place in South East Asia (Manila), Latin America (Buenos Aires), Southern Africa (Johannesburg), and South Asia (Delhi) catalyzed a series of initiatives for mercury-free health care in each region. HCWH is also working to develop initatives or pilot projects for mercury-free health care in a growing number of developing countries.

For more information on the Global Initiative with WHO go to