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By Jorge G. Conte Burrell
Faced with the worrying national environmental reality, the lack of public information and the lack of policies and procedures for the management of waste with mercury in Panama, the Zero Contamination Alliance maintains a campaign aimed at providing a reference and functional framework of the necessary actions to the integral management of these wastes with mercury in our country.
- Considering that in the coming months there will be important regional and general meetings regarding the negotiation of a binding international agreement on mercury to achieve better protection of health and the environment.
- Taking into account that mercury in its various forms is a toxic metal that, released into the environment, is transformed into methylmercury and accumulates and concentrates in trophic chains until it contaminates food. That metallic mercury vapors and exposure to organic mercury affect the nervous system causing irritability, tremors, impaired sight and hearing, and memory problems. That mercury can also affect kidneys and if the mother has been exposed to organic mercury and has it in her body, she can pass it to the baby during pregnancy or through milk. That the unborn baby exposed to mercury through the placenta can suffer brain damage, mental retardation, blindness, seizures, and the inability to speak.
- Considering that mercury and its compounds have reached high levels in the global environment, which motivated that in 2009 the member countries of the United Nations, including Panama, decided to initiate an international negotiation process to develop a mandatory agreement on this metal which should be completed for signature in 2013.
- Recalling that the World Health Organization (WHO) in the document on the general policy of mercury in the health sector, since 2005, recommends carrying out cleaning and waste management procedures in health centers, inventories on the use and environmental releases of mercury in hospitals, and in the long term, support for the ban on the use of mercury-containing devices and the promotion of mercury-free alternatives.
- Acknowledging that WHO, together with the NGO Salud sin Harño, has promoted the Joint Global Initiative for the global replacement of the use of mercury in medical devices and supplies and its replacement by alternatives with accurate and economically viable measurements that do not compromise the quality of care to the patient.
- That in developing countries alone, from 2009 to date, more than 6,000 individual hospitals have replaced or are in the process of replacing mercury thermometers. That these are in addition to the more than 5,000 US hospitals that have eliminated them, along with those in the European Union where clinical mercury thermometers are prohibited.
- That there are successful experiences of mercury substitution in public health systems in Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, to name a few in our region, and the implementation of public policies to reduce the use of mercury in the health sector in countries such as Argentina, the Philippines, Chile or Mongolia.
- That the WHO published in 2011 a technical document that identifies the available resources that support the precision and equivalent clinical utility of substitute products, while protecting the health of workers and that of the environment.
- Emphasizing that, in the case of our country, mercury thermometers or sphygmomanometers have not been replaced by safer alternatives for health, administrative, maintenance and cleaning personnel or users and their visitors in hospitals, clinics and public sector health center despite its technical and economic viability.
We respectfully call that at the next regional consultation meeting of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, to be held from May 14 to 18, 2012 and at the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the global mercury agreement , to be held from June 27 to 1. July 2012 in Punta de Este, Oriental Republic of Uruguay, our country decides decisively for:
- Support for the inclusion of thermometers and sphygmomanometers in the list of products with added mercury in Annex C of the draft text of the agreement so that commitments are adopted that lead to their replacement without any exception by safe and effective alternatives.
- The commitment to end the manufacture, import, export, distribution and use of thermometers and sphygmomanometers with mercury except for their export for their environmentally appropriate disposal and by the procedure and within the terms agreed in the negotiation of the agreement.
- The commitment to inform and educate the personnel and the exposed population about the risks to health and the environment of the breakage of thermometers and sphygmomanometers with mercury, and of other products with added mercury and environmental sources included in the agreement, of mishandling of its waste and the convenience of its replacement.
- At the national level, we demand that a broad and transparent national consultation process be opened to establish positions regarding the measures to be taken in relation to the use of mercury and its compounds in the other products listed in Annex C of the Convention: prohibition of mercury in pesticides, paints and skin whitening creams, the limitation of mercury and substitution in fluorescent lamps, as well as the possible progressive substitution of dental amalgams and mercury preservatives in vaccines, when this is possible.
- At the national level, also, prohibit the use and marketing of clinical thermometers and sphygmomanometers with mercury, following the trend already set by health institutions that have shown the technical feasibility of such replacement.
- Implement programs for information, responsible purchasing, recovery, comprehensive management and final storage of waste, equipment and products with mercury nationwide.
- Define areas and techniques at the national level for the temporary and final storage of these products, equipment and wastes with mercury.
Waiting for our request to be well received by you, we sincerely greet you.
Atty. Jorge G. Conte Burrell
Zero Pollution Alliance
Member of the Global Mercury Program
Panama, Rep. Of Panama
Tel: (507) 394-4921
c.c .: United Nations Environment Program (UNEP / ROLAC)
National Council for Sustainable Development (Presidency of the Republic)
Commission on population, environment and human development (Assembly of Deputies)
National Environmental Authority (General Directorate)
Given the worrying national environmental reality, the lack of public information and the lack of policies and procedures for the management of waste with mercury in Panama, the Zero Contamination Alliance has maintained since 2009 a campaign aimed at supporting the National Government, the governments Municipal and private companies to implement public health policies for the proper management of these wastes of hospital, electronic, industrial and public generation origin, to provide a reference and functional framework of the necessary actions for the comprehensive management of these wastes with mercury in our country.
This letter has been sent to the General Director of Health, Dr. Eduardo Lucas Mora and the Deputy Director of Environmental Health, Dr. Carlos Emilio Jaén, which suggests our position as a country in the 4th. regional meeting and 4th. international negotiation on mercury to be held next June 27 to 1st. July 2012 in the city of Punta del Este, Oriental Republic of Uruguay as part of the Global Mercury Partnership of which Panama has been a signatory since 2009.
It is being sent to the United Nations Environment Program, the National Council for Sustainable Development, the National Environmental Authority, the Commission on population, environment and Human development of the Assembly of Deputies and the media for its public disclosure.
Jorge G. Conte Burrell