The State government has already started the work of phasing out mercury-based medical equipment from hospitals, said M.C. Sampath, State Environment Minister, here on Thursday.

Speaking at the inauguration of ‘National Dissemination Workshop on Global Healthcare Waste Project’, organised by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), Mr. Sampath said the programme was launched in 14 hospitals, including five government hospitals. The government sanctioned Rs. 56 lakh and replaced the mercury-based blood pressure apparatus with non-mercury based ones. Non mercury-based thermometers and needle hub cutters were also provided to these hospitals.

As part of the project, a free diploma course on handling hospital waste by the Indira Gandhi National Open University was conducted for doctors, nurses and officials of the Pollution Control Board, the Minister said. Speaking on the occasion, Mohan Verghese Chunkath, Additional Chief Secretary and Secretary of Environment and Forests, Tamil Nadu, said mercury was a problematical element in terms of its impact on environment. Biological contents of mercury caused many diseases. Mr. Chunkath said dioxins were extremely dangerous materials. They harmed the reproductive and hormonal system in the human body. Monitoring this hazardous material would be difficult as it required highly sophisticated equipment.

D. Karthigeyan, Chairman, TNPCB, said the Global Environment Facility, an international funding body under the United Nations Development Programme, identified Tamil Nadu for funding the project ‘Demonstrating and promoting best techniques and practices for reducing health care waste to avoid environmental release of dioxins and mercury.’ The objective of the programme was to promote the use of non-mercury medical devices. The project duration was for three years, which had a funding of nearly Rs. 1.4 crore, he said. It was coming to an end and in order to disseminate information to other hospitals the workshop was being held, said the organisers.

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