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Ecology Center salutes release of new tool to help hospitals and other medical facilities choose more environmentally sensitive products
Tracey Easthope, director of environmental health programs at the Ecology Center, is among the national leaders saluting the release of a tool to help hospitals identify, request and procure environmentally preferable medical products.
In addition to her work at the Ecology Center, Easthope is the coordinator of chemicals policy for Health Care Without Harm, a national coalition. In that role, Easthope, who has a master’s degree in public health, provided technical assistance in the development of the tool, called the Standardized Environmental Questions for Medical Products. It was released on Oct. 12 by Practice Greenhealth, an organization representing 1,100 hospitals across the country, and related “group purchasing organizations” which represent more than 4,000 hospitals and $135 billion in annual purchasing volume.
The tool provides a template with a common set of standardized questions on environmental attributes of medical products.
“This adoption of this new tool shows a heightened awareness by the health care sector in the life-cycle hazards of products,” Easthope said.
One reason that the health care sector is developing initiatives like the one announced Oct. 12 is that the nation’s major industrial chemical law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), is out-of-date and not equipped to deal with current challenges, according to Easthope.
Legislation proposed in the current Congress, the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, would regulate the safety of chemicals used in consumer products, increasing public information on chemicals and their health impacts, and encouraging businesses to use safer chemicals.
“But in the absence of TSCA reform, the health-care sector is taking action to move to safer alternatives, whether Congress helps them or not,” Easthope said.
This tool is part of Practice Greenhealth’s Greening the Supply Chain initiative, which was launched earlier this year in order to provide a common set of tools for purchasers, suppliers and manufacturers to encourage the use of environmentally preferable products that are cost competitive, and of comparable or superior quality to products already in use.
“The fact these leading organizations have helped develop this tool and will be using it is highly significant, as their purchasing power is enough to help shift the entire health-sector marketplace toward more sustainable products,” according to Gary Cohen, president and founder of Health Care Without Harm. “This new tool is also significant in that it now sends a clear signal to suppliers that hospitals are looking for safer chemicals and greener products.”
For more information on the Standardized Environmental Questions for Medical Products, see www.practicegreenhealth.org/gsc.