Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable
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Projects Database

Reducing Mercury Releases Through P2 In Healthcare Facilities

Project Information

Award Amount:$137,750.00
Dollars Leveraged:$7,247.00
Start-End Dates:10/1/97-12/30/99
Description:Summary: The goal of this project was to reduce the amount of mercury released in the Great Lakes Basin, by encouraging hospitals and other health care facilities in the Chicago metropolitan area to adopt comprehensive pollution prevention programs, with a particular emphasis on eliminating mercury-containing devices products and waste.

Environmental Results/Products: Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) Office of Pollution Prevention (OPP) staff conducted a training seminar to educate Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Illinois Waste Management & Research Center (WMRC) staff on pollution prevention opportunities for mercury and other waste in health care facilities. IEPA OPP staff developed a pilot pollution prevention assessment for two hospital facilities. IEPA OPP staff established a working group to provide advice and mentoring assistance. IEPA OPP staff developed outreach materials for dissemination to hospitals, particularly to facilities utilizing on-site incinerators.

IEPA and WMRC conducted pollution prevention (P2) site visits at 22 hospitals in Illinois. Fifteen of the facilities were located in the Chicago area. A waste and mercury reduction checklist was developed to aid in evaluating hospital environmental activities.

A pre-assessment survey was provided to each of the 22 hospitals to collect background information about waste generation activities and priority areas for mercury and waste reduction. This information was used to focus discussions and tour specific areas during the P2 site visits. A typical P2 site visit included touring a patient care area, the clinical laboratories, pharmacy, central supply room and docking/receiving area. A representative from the surgical department was interviewed.

After each site visit a report to the hospital that listed existing waste and mercury reduction efforts, and outlined areas for improvement.

Waste and mercury reduction recommendations typically focused on:
• Alternatives to mercury-containing blood pressure devices, gastrointestinal equipment, thermometers, electrical equipment and laboratory chemicals.
• Recycling opportunities for waste lab solvents.
• Infectious waste segregation practices for patient care and surgical areas.
• Recycling opportunities for solid waste items.
• Waste management planning activities.

A second survey was developed and provided to the hospitals six to ten months after the site visit to identify recommendations that were adopted. During the site visits, a number of innovative waste reduction practices were bing implemented by the hospitals, including:

• Removing red bag containers from patient rooms.
• Posting signage on operating room doors to remind staff to segregate waste streams.
• Visually checking the contents of laboratory infectious waste containers to monitor waste segregation practices.
• Tracking wastes from different departments to help identify waste reduction priorities.
• Providing digital thermometers in newborn baby gift packs.
• Recycling waste alcohols, formalin, and xylene wastes on site.
• Placing recycling containers in convenient and accessible locations.

Ten of the 22 hospitals returned the post site visit survey. All of the reporting hospitals documented at least one improvement in their waste management efforts, while seven indicated they had implemented at least one mercury use reduction recommendation. Several hospitals reported that they were already implementing mercury reduction programs before the P2 site visit took place.


• 4 facilities increased staff training on waste segregation and reduction practices
• 4 facilities formed an internal committee to identify additional waste and mercury reduction opportunities
• 6 facilities that conducted additional assessments of their waste generating activities
• 4 facilities that modified their procurement practices or guidelines to encourage purchasing less toxic or recycled products
• 7 facilities that increased employee awareness about waste management
• 678 mercury blood pressure meters (sphygmomanometers) eliminated.
• 251 mercury thermometers (105 from laboratories)
• 3 facilities that eliminated the use of mercury-containing lab chemicals
• 1 facility prepared a mercury use inventory and protocol to eliminate mercury containing lab chemicals.
• 3 facilities instituted a formal program to replace mercury-containing electrical equipment during building renovation activities.
• 3 facilities adopted a policy to eliminate or phase-out mercury containing products and equipment.
• 3 facilities created an inventory of areas or places where mercury containing products are still being used.
• 3 facilities requested information from their vendors about the mercury content of selected products.
• 3 facilities established a program to check drain traps for historical mercury content.
• 4 facilities created programs to improve infectious waste segregation practices.
• 2 facilities expanded their recycling programs
• 3 facilities expanded their materials reuse programs.


Funding Organizations

Below is a list of organizations with individual contacts that are funding this project.

U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office - Primary Contact

77 W Jackson Blvd
Chicago, Illinois 60604
There are no individuals in this organization
associated with this project.

Organizations Receiving Funding

Below is a list of organizations with individual contacts that are receiving funding for this project.

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) - Primary Contact

1021 N Grand Avenue East
Springfield, Illinois 62794-9476
p: 217/524-9642
f: 217/557-2125
Individual Contacts

Associated Organizations

Below is a list of associated organizations that are NOT giving or receiving funding for this project.

Illinois Waste Management & Research Center - Partner

One Hazelwood Drive
Champaign, Illinois 61820
p: 217/333-8940
f: 217/333-8944

University of Wisconsin-Extension Office - Partner

161 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 6000
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53203
p: 414-227-3371
f: 414-227-3165

GLRPPR is a member of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange, a national network of regional information centers: NEWMOA (Northeast), WRRC (Southeast), GLRPPR (Great Lakes), ZeroWasteNet (Southwest), P2RIC (Plains), Peaks to Prairies (Mountain), WSPPN (Pacific Southwest), PPRC (Northwest).


One East Hazelwood Drive; Champaign, IL; 61820; (800) 407-0261;