In 2009, we conducted a survey to assess the use of mercury-based thermometers and sphygmomanometers and their disposal in Croatian healthcare facilities. The questionnaire addressing the use of mercury-based medical devices, waste management, preferences between mercury-based and electronic devices, and the knowledge on mercury toxicity was filled by ward nurses affiliated with 40 (71.4 %) out of 56 contacted healthcare facilities. Only one of these facilities had given up the use of mercury-containing medical devices at the time. As many as 84.6 % of the nurses believed that broken devices did not increase the risk of mercury exposure, even though 90 % claimed they were aware of mercury toxicity. In fact, 69.4 % of the nurses preferred mercury-containing devices on account of their precision and reliability and because they received little training in the use of electronic devices.

Breaking of thermometers and sphygmomanometers is common in healthcare facilities. The number of broken thermometers and sphygmomanometers was estimated to 278 and five per month, respectively. Only 18 (46.2 %) of the surveyed healthcare facilities claimed to have had a proper disposal procedure for mercury from broken devices. Nurses, who most often handle these devices and collect mercury spills, are primarily exposed to mercury vapours via inhalation. Croatia has adopted the EU Directive 76/769/EEC intended to reduce mercury exposure in the living and working environment. Our survey suggests that all healthcare professionals need training in proper management of broken mercury-based medical devices, nurses in particular. To reduce the risk of exposure, all Croatian healthcare facilities should implement guidelines for staff protection and programmes to gradually replace mercury-based with electronic devices.

English, Slovenian
Publication timeframe:
4 times per year
Journal Subjects:
Medicine, Basic Medical Science, other