|MERCURY-FILLED ESOPHAGEAL DEVICES|
Mercury-filled esophageal devices are commonly used to dilate the esophagus of a patient in response to medical conditions or treatments that cause esophageal narrowing or tissue shrinkage. This information guide reviews tungsten-filled dilators as a suitable alternative to mercury-filled dilators. Benefits include a reduced potential for impact to the environment from inadvertent release of mercury during disposal or in the event of a spill.
Overview of Procedure
Mercury, because of its great density and liquid state, has been used in esophageal dilators as a weight. The mercury-filled devices are constructed of a thick latex outer coating encapsulating about two pounds of mercury. Repeated use and cleaning of the mercury-filled dilators sometimes caused the latex covering to become brittle. Due to the potential for the latex covering to become compromised, each dilator has an expiration date associated with it. In addition, the manufacturer of the devices has indicated that they had received reports of mercury-containing dilators rupturing during handling causing potential environmental, patient, and employee exposures.
Waste Minimization Procedure
Unlike mercury, tungsten is not a liquid at room temperature. Therefore, the tungsten contained within the device is in the form of a powder suspended in a gel. This form allows the dilator to be flexible and conform to the shape of the esophagus, exerting the proper pressure to enlarge the narrow section.
Like the mercury-filled dilators, the tungsten-filled dilators also have an expiration date associated with each one. When the devices expire, the Occupational Safety and Environmental Health Hazardous Materials group is notified for proper disposal.
Safety & Health Precautions/Personal Protective Equipment
By replacing the latex covering with a silicone covering, patients with latex allergy are not exposed and placed at risk of allergic reaction.
Project Related Costs
When determining the cost effectiveness of implementing these devices, the cost savings from elimination of mercury disposal and spill clean up must also be considered.