Medical devices containing mercury banned in Bahrain

Healthcare facilities and medical devices dealers have been given until March to get rid of all products containing mercury.

  
Image used for illustrative purpose. Empty emergency room in a hospital.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Empty emergency room in a hospital.

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Bahrain - Medical devices containing mercury have been banned in Bahrain with authorities saying a leak of the chemical could prove toxic.

These include thermometers and blood pressure machines.

Healthcare facilities and medical devices dealers have been given until March to get rid of all products containing mercury.

On the banned list are sphygmomanometer (a machine to record blood pressure), thermometers to measure fever, dental amalgams, oesophageal dialators and gastrointestinal tubes, among others.

The ban was announced by the National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA) in a circular yesterday in consensus with the Supreme Council for Health (SCH) and Supreme Council for Environment (SCE), and comes in line with Bahrain having signed the Basel agreement in 1992.

The Basel Convention which controls transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and their disposal is an international treaty designed to reduce the movement of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries.

“The NHRA would like to notify all importers and medical devices companies that the importation of medical devices containing mercury is prohibited,” said the circular.

“(This is) due to the risks associated with the use of this device on patients and users.

“The toxic mercury leaked from these devices affects the nerves and brain functions, including memory loss, tremor and stress that can lead to death.

“Therefore, it is strictly prohibited to import, sell and use medical devices containing mercury and all healthcare facilities must dispose all medical devices containing mercury before March 2020.”

Mercury is one of the top 10 chemicals causing major public health concern and is a substance which disperses into and remains in ecosystems for generations, causing severe ill health and intellectual impairment to exposed populations.

NHRA safety and engineering consultant Nada Al Saigh said guidelines on how to dispose of items containing mercury will be published soon, while agencies have been urged to contact the authority for clarification.

“The disposal of these kinds of devices will be through facilities authorised and licensed by the SCE,” Ms Al Saigh told the GDN.

“A detailed guideline matching international standards will be published by the NHRA soon.”

She pointed out that other GCC countries are also in the process of banning such products.

“Bahrain is the first to implement this move,” she said.

NHRA chief executive Dr Maryam Al Jalahma said dealers have been informed of the ban and inspectors will conduct routine checks.

“The decision has been taken in agreement with the SCE and with the approval of SCH as Bahrain is committed by the Basel agreement which urges countries to reduce the use of mercury-based devices which adds to the hazardous waste,” she said.

“Any importation will be stopped and public is requested to contact us at medical_device@nhra.bh if they find such devices in use.

“Any violation will be referred for necessary action.”

In 2013, the World Health Organisation had called for mercury thermometers and blood pressure devices to be phased out due to health concerns.

The body, along with Care without Harm organisation, has set up an initiative to rid the medical world of any devices containing mercury by 2020, citing “global public health concern”.

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