Hospitals and other health care facilities are critical components of any community, serving as stewards of the community’s health, promoting preventive health and delivering quality treatment and services. As such, they have the opportunity to maximize their efforts to become true healing environments for patients, workers, the larger community, and the environment. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities can eliminate specific toxins, prevent pollution, reduce exposures to people, and minimize medical waste, while saving costs.
Our Environmentally Responsible Healthcare program has worked with over 75 facilities, local hospital associations, county health departments and local governments to raise awareness and educate medical professionals, administrators and management about the dangers of key pollutants, their impact on human health, and offer cost-effective alternatives for reduction and elimination.
Hospitals and healthcare systems are invited to send their green team reps to the 7th international conference to catalyze environmental improvements in the healthcare sector. Go Green with the right tools, resources and skills to make a difference in your facility.
April 6-8, 2011, Phoenix, AZ (see link below)
Health Care's Guidance Document for Environmentally Preferable IT Products
As healthcare institutions move toward electronic health records and more technologically advanced equipment, the environmental impact of healthcare’s IT program also increases. Given the growing impact of electronics, hospitals have an opportunity to make a statement about your commitment to reducing the environmental impact of your IT department.
Member organizations of Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) have developed a sign on document. Click here to view it.
The Guidance document is an acknowledgement of the environmental impact of electronics and focuses on ways healthcare institutions can reduce that impact (from purchasing, through use and to final disposal). Much of it is aspirational and does not require that hospitals are already complying with these points but more that your institution agrees with the core principles and are interested in moving in this direction.
Kaiser Permanente and Catholic Healthcare West have already endorsed this document and will be issuing a press release at CleanMed. They would greatly welcome additional endorsers. Send us an email today via our Contact Us page.
Health Care & Chemicals
Health care is the largest purchaser of chemicals and chemical products in the U.S. The healthcare sector can support safer materials and chemicals in facilities and the environment --- weigh-in on and support policies that will improve the regulation of chemicals in the U.S.
Health Care Without Harm is leading an effort to engage the health care sector in the current discussion in Washington, D.C., about reforming the way industrial chemicals are regulated. In the coming months, members of Congress are poised to introduce and consider legislation that would dramatically change the existing chemical management system. This is a sweeping reform effort because this legislation will govern chemicals added to nearly every product (except food, drugs, cosmetics, and pesticides, which are regulated separately), a great many of which are used in health care.
Although mounting evidence links chemical exposures to negative health outcomes, such as cancers, birth defects, and infertility, the federal laws created to protect the public from hazardous chemicals are inadequate. The lack of pre-market testing of chemicals and insufficient federal authority to regulate problematic chemicals means the health care sector must assess—on its own—the merits of claims that chemicals may cause harm. The many chemicals to which patients and workers in health care may be exposed include cleaners and disinfectants, chemicals of concern in medical devices, flame retardants and formaldehyde in furniture, and solvents and formaldehyde in labs, among many others.
As the largest purchaser of chemicals in the U.S., health care will be significantly impacted by the ultimate policies Congress adopts. A change in the law is almost guaranteed because all stakeholders, including government, industry, and NGOs, support reform. Now is a critical time for health care to share its perspective by weighing in on the specific challenges the sector faces and offering solutions to ensure safer products are available for use.
What you can do:
1) Sign-ons are needed by February 19th. The letter will be sent to Congress by March 1, 2010. Please contact Teresa if you are interested in signing-on to the letter.
If your facility would be interested in deeper engagement, let us know and we can work with you to arrange:
2) Speaking to legislators and their staff on the Hill in individual meetings and/or speaking at organized Hill briefings for legislative staff about chemicals policy reform.
3) Serving as a spokesperson for health care on the issue (i.e., being a media contact, providing quotes for news releases).
New! Report on Health Care Cost Associated with Current Chemicals Regulatory Program
A new report coming out this month illustrates the opportunity to prevent disease and reduce health care costs by overhauling the federal chemical regulatory program. Estimates of the proportion of the disease burden that can be attributed to chemicals vary, ranging from 1% of all disease to 5% of childhood cancer, 10% of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and neurodevelopmental deficits, and 30% of childhood asthma. A conservative estimate puts the health care cost savings attributable to a decline in the incidence of chronic diseases due to reductions in chemical exposures at an estimated $5 billion per year.
On January 28 at 1 pm EST, a lead author of the report, along with a medical doctor and an environmental health scientist, will present the findings of the report via teleconference to members of the health care sector. To participate in a Teleconference on January 21st, contact Rachel Gibson, Chemicals Policy Director at HCWH,
Philadelphia Inquirer reports that local hospitals commit to eliminate DEHP from their NICUs (May 2004). WHEN educated hospitals and nurses about DEHP, a plasticizer used in PVC devices, such as IV bags and tubing, which can leach into patients. Given the numerous treatments provided to infants in Neonatal Intensive Care Units, WHEN challenged hospitals to replace DEHP by switching to non-PVC devices wherever possible.
Hospital Eliminating DEHP:
• Abington Memorial Hospital has committed to eliminating DEHP hospital-wide through their environmentally preferred purchasing policy.
• Magee-Women’s Hospital of UPMC in Pittsburgh received the first DEHP-free Award by Practice Greenhealth in 2009!
• Over 20 hospitals in the Philadelphia region have phased out DEHP from their Neonatal Intensive Care Units.
We’re available to help you with a NICU audit on DEHP.
Chemicals in Healthcare
Do you know where hidden chemicals are in healthcare? Other than the obvious - cleaning products, laboratories, maintenance supplies - there are thousands of chemicals that off-gas after manufacturing or release dangerous compounds during use or through disposal, from flooring, office supplies, and medical devices, to furnishings, food, and equipment. By understanding these hidden ingredients and their impacts on health, the healthcare sector can begin to make environmentally preferable purchasing policies to protect patients, workers, clinicians and communities.
Download the Priority Chemicals identified by the U.S. EPA.
Download the Safer Chemicals Purchasing Policy.
The electronics recycling project worked with several hospitals in the region to provide a discount to participating facilities for recycling responsibly (no exporting, use of prison labor without training or safety equipment, or dumping).
By recycling, hospitals and other institutions can:
• Reduce costs
• Comply with HIPAA guidelines
• Meet Joint Commission or other accreditation standards
• Recycle medical equipment, TVs, CDs and other electronics
• Increase storage space
• Free-up staff time
• Keep toxic chemicals out of our environment
Remember to ask where your electronics equipment end up - avoid landfills, incineration, exporting.
Also avoid the use of prison labor in the U.S. that doesn't protect workers or provide skills that can be used upon released.
• Buy green computers and other electronics using the EPEAT guidelines (www.EPEAT.net)
• Recycle using the BAN signers of the recycling pledge (www.e-stewards.org)
• Watch the Story of Electronics a 7 minute informative and fun video.
• Download and Complete the Electronics Survey
Results of 2009 Electronics Survey
Hospitals locally upgrade or replace computers every 3 to 5 years, according to a self-reporting survey responded by several facilities. Three hospitals alone purchase almost 2,000 computers each year. Impressively, many are using EPEAT products, which rate computer equipment on environmental factors. What happens to the older computers? Most are made available to other departments within the institution; several sell, donate, or recycle. And best news, no one is tossing them in the trash! Unfortunately, of those that do recycle, no one is using an “e-Steward” recycler approved by the Basel Action Network.
Green Building of Health Care
Who’s building Green locally?
• Mercy Suburban
• Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
• University of Pennsylvania Medical Center
• The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
• Riddle Memorial
Tools & Resources
• Green Guide for Health Care for green design, construction or operations (www.gghc.org).
• Pharos Project web based tool that connects to a network of building professionals and manufacturers committed to transparency as a core value on the path to sustainability (www.pharosproject.net).
• Hospital Fire Marshal's Association is interested in preserving safety and security of everyone walking into a healthcare or educational facility (www.hfma-safety.org).
• Practice Greenhealth offers tools, resources and support to green healthcare (www.practicegreenhealth.org).
• CleanMed annual international conference to catalyze environmental improvements in the health care sector (www.cleanmed.org).
• Roundtables, seminars & conferences
Visit the Green Hospital Pilot page to download agendas from previous workshops and conferences.
• Sustainable Food in Health Care
For updates and resources on healthcare food, visit our Food & Sustainability Programs.
• Case Studies on Best Practices by Local Hospitals
Other health care related items to visit on this website:
• Green Hospitals Pilot
• Nursing Leadership for Environmental Health
• Mercury-free Philly Campaign
• Food & Sustainability
• Climate & Health
• Pharmaceuticals in the Environment
• Educational Programs
• Consultations & Technical Assistance
WHEN is a member organization of Health Care Without Harm.