Maine's 39 hospitals have pledged to voluntarily cut their use of PVC in medical supplies and to eliminate mercury-bearing products.
The agreement was announced March 7 by the Maine Hospital Association, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Natural Resources Council of Maine on behalf of environmental coalition Health Care Without Harm. It calls for eliminating mercury by 2005 and for a 50 percent reduction of the overall volume of hospital waste by 2010.
Each of Maine's 39 nonprofit community-governed hospitals has been asked to sign agreements that set specific reduction goals, said Jim Harner, the Maine Hospital Association's vice president of public affairs. The first step is to quantify the amount of PVC, mercury and hazardous materials currently being used, Harner said.
"With this agreement, Maine's hospitals recognize the link between the products that come in the door and the environmental impacts when those products are used or discarded," said Mike Belliveau, director of the Toxics and Pollution Prevention Project at the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
The agreement encourages hospitals to urge manufacturers to develop less expensive alternative products, Harner said.
The DEP and Health Care Without Harm will pay for a consultant who will help hospitals establish realistic goals, Harner said.
He added that it is unusual for a state environmental agency and an environmental group to work so closely together.