The Alcon Research, Ltd. facility in Huntington, W.Va., has joined the growing ranks of companies enrolling in EPA’s National Partnership for Environmental Priorities (NPEP). The program encourages public and private organizations to form partnerships with EPA and to commit to either reuse, or reduce the use or release of any of 31 priority chemicals.

As a new NPEP partner, Alcon has committed to remove and recycle mercury from equipment used at its manufacturing facility. This includes, among other things, removal of mercury-containing gauges, thermostats and switches throughout the 150,000 sq. ft. facility.

“Alcon is taking an important step towards reducing the facility’s environmental footprint by enrolling in EPA’s National Partnership for Environmental Priorities,” said Abraham Ferdas, director of the Land and Chemicals Division of EPA’s mid-Atlantic region.

Mercury can cause health effects when it is breathed in as a vapor. These exposures can occur when mercury is spilled or when products containing mercury, like switches and thermostats, break and expose mercury to the air. Mercury exposure may cause tremors, emotional changes, insomnia and headaches. At higher exposure levels, mercury can affect the kidneys, cause respiratory failure and even death.

EPA, working in conjunction with the public and various industries, has set a goal to reduce the use or release of four million pounds of priority chemicals like mercury by 2011. These priority chemicals have been targeted because they can accumulate in living organisms or have high toxicity levels.

Founded in 1945, Alcon develops, manufactures, and distributes hundreds of eye care products in more than 180 countries. Alcon's core business is centered on three key areas, surgical, pharmaceutical and consumer vision care. Alcon has manufacturing facilities and offices in 75 countries worldwide.