The health care sector is now 18% of the economy and one of the largest users of chemicals. That’s why greening the sector is so important, and a priority activity of the Ecology Center.
Our goal is to make all of the products used in health care safe for people and the planet, and to leverage health care's purchasing power to make the entire material economy safer. Our most recent work focuses on three main areas: safer furnishings, safer cleaners and greener medical devices. We've joined forces with the Healthier Hospitals Initiative to help develop and support the Safer Chemicals Challenge, part of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI). More than 2000 hospitals have joined HHI, and more than 250 hospitals have committed tothe reduce toxic chemicals in products used in their hospitals. Stay tuned for the Healthier Hospitals Initiative v. 2.0 in late 2015.
Furniture used in health care can offgas or leach toxic chemicals into the hospital environment. Chemicals like halogenated flame retardants and formaldehyde have been measured in hospital environments. That's why we've teamed up with Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth to help hospitals identify furniture without some of the worst toxic chemicals. You can see the lists of furniture without hazardous flame retardants, perfluorinated chemicals, formaldehyde and PVC here. And five major health systems recently announced that they will purchase furnishings without added flame retardants representing more than $80 million dollars in purchasing! Priorities in 2015 include extending the number of furniture and hospital furnishing manufacturers participating in the initiative. Stay tuned!
One of the highest volume medical devices used in health care is IV bags. IV bags are often made of PVC or vinyl, a 'worst in class' plastic with significant life cycle impacts. PVC medical devices are also made flexible with the addition of chemical additives called phthalates, with health impacts of their own. Studies have raised concerns about the leaching of phthalates from medical devices, particularly for neonates that may have multiple medical procedures with phthalate-containing medical devices. You can read more about the issue, and our work to promote the development and adoption of alternatives here.
Published on January 26, 2017