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ECKERD JOINS NATIONAL MOVEMENT
TO PHASE OUT
MERCURY FEVER THERMOMETERS

Health advocates urge Kroger, Medicine Shoppe, Publix and Fred's to follow suit

Responding to a shareholder request, Eckerd announced it will stop selling mercury fever thermometers in its 2,640 stores by March 31.Eckerd was the last of the top five largest pharmacy chains in the United States to agree to phase out the dangerous product, joining CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreen andWal-Mart.

Mercury is a potent toxin to the nervous system that can affect the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver. More than 60,000 children annually may be at risk for learningdisabilities because of mercury-contaminated fish eaten by their mothers during pregnancy, according to the National Academy of Sciences. At least 41 states haveadvisories restricting fish consumption due to mercury contamination.

"By removing a significant source of mercury from their shelves, Eckerd is helping customers and communities to reduce the potential harm that mercury causes to peopleand wildlife," said Charlotte Brody, RN, director of Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), an international coalition of public health advocates working to reduce pollution inhealth care.

HCWH has urged all major health care institutions to phase out the manufacture, distribution and sale of mercury-containing devices. At least 71% of chain pharmacieshave stopped selling mercury fever thermometers as a result.

Eight states and several major cities have banned the sale or restricted the use of mercury thermometers. More than 600 hospitals and clinics, including those of KaiserPermanente and the National Institutes of Health, have voluntarily agreed to phase out mercury pollution from their waste streams by 2005.

Legislation is also pending for a national sales ban on mercury thermometers. The "Mercury Reduction and Disposal Act of 2001" was introduced by Sen. Susan Collins(R-Maine).

The largest remaining retailer to sell mercury thermometers is Kroger, which operates 1,591 pharmacies nationwide. On Jan. 3, shareholders sent a letter to Kroger urginga mercury thermometer phase out, but the company has yet to offer a response. Other large retailers that continue to sell mercury thermometers include Cardinal Health'sMedicine Shoppe franchise, Publix and Fred's Pharmacies.

"It is appalling that there are retailers that continue to sell potentially dangerous mercury devices to their customers, especially when safer, cost comparable and equallyeffective alternatives exist in the marketplace," said Jamie Harvie, mercury coordinator of HCWH. For more information about the dangers of mercury, see www.noharm.org.

Written by: Health Care Without Harm


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