Remember when the glass thermometer your mother would use to figure out if you could stay home from school would be drop for some reason, and break -- and and the little silver droplets of mercury would roll around the floor?
Those days are over.
In Israel, the end of an era has arrived: The Health Ministry last week banned the use of thermometers and sphygmomanometers (blood pressure monitors) that use mercury, also known as "quicksilver"
The directive was prompted by a decision issued earlier this year by the World Health Organization to minimize use of the elemental metal – mercury – which is poisonous when ingested.
Mercury can be absorbed through the skin and mucous membranes and mercury vapors can be inhaled, so containers of mercury are securely sealed to avoid spills and evaporation. Mercury can cause both chronic and acute poisoning.
Poisoning symptoms can include functional disturbance, irritability, excitability, excessive shyness, and insomnia. Long-term exposure can lead to development of fine tremors and may escalate to violent muscular spasms. The tremor initially involves the hands and later spreads to the eyelids, lips, and tongue. Long-term, low-level exposure has been associated with more subtle symptoms of fatigue, irritability, loss of memory, vivid dreams and depression.
According to the ministry’s directive, the ban will be implemented in stages.
In the first step, hospitals will no longer purchase the banned items, and they will no longer be used in the coming year in the medical clinics either.
Instead, medical facilities will replace both items with models that do not contain any mercury.
In the second step, HMO clinics (kupat holim clinics) will no longer be permitted to sell the mercury thermometers or blood pressure cuffs to the public.
By January 2015, Israel will no longer import the items at all.