Controversy Surrounds Mercury Thermometers
Municipal and state governments around the country are pushing to "legislat[e]" "potentially lethal" mercury thermometers "out of existence," USA Today reports. The cities of Boston, San Francisco and Duluth; the state of New Hampshire; and several municipalities in Michigan and Wisconsin have banned the sale of mercury thermometers. Massachusetts and Vermont are expected to consider similar legislation next year. San Francisco, Ann Arbor, Mich., and several cities in New Hampshire currently offer free exchanges for digital models. The Rite Aid and CVS drugstore chains, seeing "the writing on the wall," are phasing out mercury thermometers. Fever thermometers contain about .02 ounces of mercury, whose vapor can be "lethal" when inhaled in concentrated amounts, potentially causing birth defects in pregnant women and damaging the nervous systems of individuals who eat a lot of mercury-tainted seafood. The EPA estimates that 17 tons of mercury from medical instruments are thrown away every year, representing a health and environmental threat. Francis Roache, a Boston City Council member and sponsor of the city's ban, said, "People initially will say: 'What's that all about? Isn't it a waste of time?' It isn't a waste of time when we're talking about the health of children and pregnant women" (Bayles, USA Today, 11/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.