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  3. Monday, 08 August 2005
POST 00820E : WHO MERCURY POLICY 7 August 2005 _____________________________________ Note : The "Travel Quiz" page of the site has been edited with a new travel picture. However as no new "Best Practice" story and pictures have been submitted for a long time, that page could not be edited at the same time. If you have one such story with picture(s), please do not hesitate to submit it. Yves Chartier ( from WHO sends herewith a new WHO policy document on mercury, thus filling an identified gap. _____________________________________ Mercury is highly toxic, especially when metabolized into methyl mercury. It may be fatal if inhaled and harmful if absorbed through the skin. Around 80% of the inhaled mercury vapour is absorbed in the blood through the lungs. It may cause harmful effects to the nervous, digestive, respiratory system and to the kidneys, besides causing lung damage. Adverse health effects from mercury exposure can be: tremors, impaired vision and hearing, paralysis, insomnia, emotional instability, developmental deficits during fetal development, and attention deficit and developmental delays during childhood. Recent studies suggest that mercury may have no threshold below which adverse effects do not occur. The most common potential mode of occupational exposure to mercury is via inhalation of metallic liquid mercury vapours. If not cleaned up properly, spills of even small amounts of elemental mercury, such as from breakage of thermometers, can contaminate indoor air above recommended limits and lead to serious health consequences. Since mercury vapour is odourless and colourless, people can breathe mercury vapour and not know it. For liquid mercury, inhalation is the route of exposure that poses the greatest health risk. A variety of studies demonstrate that mercury containing health-care equipment will invariably break. Small spills of elemental mercury on a smooth, non-porous surface can be safely and easily cleaned up with proper techniques. However, beads of mercury can settle into cracks or cling to porous materials like carpet, fabric, or wood, making the mercury extremely difficult to remove. Spilled mercury can also be tracked on footwear. Inadequate cleaning and disposal may expose already compromised patients and health-care staff to potentially dangerous exposures The risks associated with mercury have attracted a high number of inquiries in the past few months. So far, WHO has not had a firm stance on this subject. For these reasons, it was felt and expressed both within HQ and in the regions that WHO should have a clear policy on mercury. The attached policy paper addresses this problem, highlighting the risk factor of mercury and placing it into context. This document also proposes short-, medium- and long-term strategies, while remaining realistic as to the challenges faced in many developing countries. Yves CHARTIER Public health engineer Water, Sanitation and Health Protection of the Human Environment World Health Organization ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Visit the TECHNET21 Website at You will find instructions to subscribe, a direct access to archives, links to reference documents and other features. ______________________________________________________________________________ To UNSUBSCRIBE, send a message to : Leave the subject area BLANK In the message body, write unsubscribe TECHNET21E ______________________________________________________________________________ The World Health Organization and UNICEF support TechNet21. The TechNet21 e-Forum is a communication/information tool for generation of ideas on how to improve immunization services. It is moderated by Claude Letarte and is hosted in cooperation with the Centre de, Canada ( ______________________________________________________________________________ ##text##

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