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E-M:/ Press Release- Mercury, Hospitals and Fish

Enviro-Mich message from tracey@ecocenter.org (Tracey Easthope)

                                                 NEWS RELEASE

CONTACT: Andy Buchsbaum, NWF
(734) 769-3351
Tracey Easthope, Ecology Center
 (734) 663-2400

Study Finds Commonly Consumed Fish Highly Contaminated with Mercury

Detroit, MI, Thursday -  Setting a national precedent, 16 Michigan
hospitals joined 80 hospitals nationally in pledging to completely
eliminate their use of mercury to address the threat of mercury
contamination in people and wildlife, a coalition of environmental
organizations and health care facilities announced today.

        The organizations, part of an international coalition working to
improve the environmental performance of the health care industry,
presented awards to seven Detroit-area hospitals and nine other hospitals
which have taken the mercury-free pledge.

        The organizations also released a report by Health Care Without
Harm documenting the health threats mercury poses in food.  Based on the
study's sampling of commonly consumed fish products:

        *        An average-sized four year old should restrict consumption
of chunk light tuna to less than one 6-ounce can per week in order not to
exceed EPA's 'safe' level.

        *      A 140-pound pregnant woman must eat less than a half can of
chunk light tuna per day in order to insure that she doesn't risk subtle
but permanent brain impairment for the developing fetus.

        Michigan coalition members also released Michigan DEQ data
documenting even higher mercury concentrations in lake fish caught in
southeast Michigan, mid-Michigan, western Michigan, and northern Michigan.

        Hospitals like the Detroit Medical Center, Spectrum Health and Bay
Medical prove that an ounce of prevention is the best medicine," said
Tracey Easthope of the Ecology Center of Ann Arbor and a member of the
coalition. "In pledging to eliminate mercury from their hospitals, they
serve as an example and truly carry out their mission to improve the health
of their communities."

        " We challenge all health care institutions who haven't done so to
take this pledge, she said"

        "The mercury-free pledge these hospitals took is critical in light
of today's reports showing mercury's contamination of our food supply,"
said Andy Buchsbaum of the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes
Office and another member of the coalition.  "The mercury levels in canned
tuna are high; but the mercury levels in Michigan lake fish are far higher
-- up to five times higher."

        "For years, Michigan has had consumption advisories for fish caught
in inland lakes due to mercury," Buchsbaum added. "Do we want canned tuna
advisories?  No.  We want the mercury contamination to end * and these hero
hospitals are taking an important step to do just that."

        Easthope and Buchsbaum today presented David Coats, Interim Chief
Executive Officer and President of the Detroit Medical Center, with an
award for the pledge to end mercury use in seven area hospitals represented
by the Detroit Medical Center.  Those hospitals are Children's Hospital of
Michigan, Huron Valley Sinai Hospital, Detroit Receiving Hospital, Hutzel
Hospital, Harper Hospital, Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan, and
Sinai-Grace Hospital.  They join nine other Michigan hospitals that  have
pledged to go mercury-free and will be receiving awards.  They are: Bay
Medical in Bay City, Bronson Healthcare Group                        in
Kalamazoo, the 5 hospitals in the Genesys Health System in Flint, Spectrum
Health in Grand Rapids, and St. Mary Hospital in Livonia.

        Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can cause permanent impairment
of speech, hearing, movement, and vision at very low doses. The vast
majority of mercury in the Great Lakes * for example, 90 percent of the
total in Lake Superior * comes from air pollution. Incinerators (including
medical waste incinerators) and coal-burning power plants are the largest

        Safe, cost-comparable alternatives exist for most of the mercury
used in hospitals. Thermometers and blood-pressure measuring devices are
two of the most commonly used mercury-containing devices.  A mercury fever
thermometer, like those used in the home, contains enough mercury to
potentially contaminate 9,000 cans of tuna fish.  A desk-mounted
sphygmomanometer (used for measuring blood pressure) contains enough
mercury to potentially contaminate 492,000 six ounce cans of chunk light

        Health Care Without Harm is an international 170-member coalition
made up of health care professionals, hospitals, environmental advocates,
organizations of health-impacted individuals, religious organizations and
labor unions.  The national report, titled Protecting By Degrees, was
authored by the Environmental Working Group, a member of Health Care
Without Harm and an environmental research organization based in
Washington, D.C. The National Wildlife Federation and the Ecology Center of
Ann Arbor are active members of the coalition.

        Summaries of the national report and the Michigan fish tissue data
accompany this news release. The Michigan fish tissue summary contains data
from the following counties:

Calhoun         Jackson Macomb  Washtenaw
Genessee                Kalamazoo       Muskegon        Wayne
Grand Traverse  Kent            Oakland

- 30 -

Tracey Easthope, MPH
Director, Environmental Health Project
Ecology Center of Ann Arbor
117 N. Division
Ann Arbor, MI  48104
P 734-663-2400 x 109
F 734-663-2414

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