In a Stanford Social Innovation Review article, Health Care Without Harm reflects on the history of the two-decade campaign to eliminate mercury from health care and the lessons learned in creating large-scale social change.
August 16, 2017 is a historic day. The Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty that will phase out mercury-based medical devices by 2020, enters into force.
Thanks to the tireless work of individuals and organizations around the world, today we celebrate a watershed moment in our global movement for environmental health and justice. Health Care Without Harm has played an important role in this achievement. Starting with one thermometer in one Boston hospital nearly 20 years ago, the mercury-free health care campaign has shown us that by holding ourselves to “do no harm” and by leveraging our collective influence, we can change the way the world thinks about the the environment and our health.
There is still work to be done. Hospitals and health systems in many developing countries still need to phase out mercury-based medical devices before 2020. Meanwhile, coal-fired power plants remain the greatest source of mercury emissions in the United States and second greatest source worldwide. Using our success with mercury as a springboard, we need to now focus our efforts on expanding renewable energy, detoxing our supply chain, and examining the health impacts of our industrial footprint in the communities we serve so that health care can continue to lead society in understanding and solving ongoing global environmental health threats.
For nearly two decades, mercury represented our understanding of health care’s negative contribution to environmental health. Today, because of you, the entry into force of the Minamata Convention represents the change we can make together in creating an environmentally healthy and just world.
Founder and President
Reflections on the mercury-free campaign from across the globe.