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Hospitals Celebrate Earth Day with Events Highlighting Environmental Sustainability Efforts

Thursday, April 22, 2010 General News J E 4
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For Committed Hospitals, Every Day is Earth Day

WASHINGTON, April 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Hospitals around the nation are celebrating the 40th anniversary of Earth Day by holding events to highlight the changes they are making in their operations to protect the environment. From making clothes and accessories from "blue wrap" used to package sterilized equipment to sponsoring "Bike to Work" days, these events are intended to increase awareness among staff, patients and the community of the work hospitals  are doing to reduce their environmental footprint.   Practice Greenhealth (PGH) and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) have collected and posted descriptions and links to dozens of these Earth Day celebration events on their website, www.noharm.org/earthday.   The theme of the PGH/HCWH celebration is "Every Day is Earth Day."

(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20100421/DC90750)

"I am so excited to see that so many hospitals are holding Earth Day celebrations," stated Anna Gilmore Hall, executive director of Practice Greenhealth.  "These events not only raise awareness among staff and the community, they give employees a chance to take pride in these achievements and celebrate the work they do to protect the environment."

While hospitals are using Earth Day as an opportunity to educate the staff and host community events, their year-round commitment to environmental sustainability goes much deeper.  The health care sector is in the midst of the largest construction boom since the close of WWII. Much of this construction is following LEED or Green Guide for Health Care guidelines on making hospitals more sustainable, and using materials that are non-toxic to patients and staff.  Hospitals are engaged in efforts to reduce their energy use, and more than ever before are starting to purchase clean energy as part of their overall energy portfolios.  Hospital purchasing staff are working to find cleaners, disinfectants, supplies and equipment made without toxic chemicals.  Other staff are reducing water use, managing waste, and preparing fresh, locally sourced, nutritious foods produced in ways that do not harm the environment.  

More than 1000 hospitals have joined Practice Greenhealth, the national organization for health institutions that have made a commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly practices.  These hospitals are the leading edge of a growing movement within health care to reduce the environmental and health damage  that can be associated with the provision of medical services.   Driving this movement  are concerns about the links that are increasingly being found between environment and health.  Pollutants, toxins, and emissions are associated with a number of chronic and acute health conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases.  "These events indicate that all over the country, hospitals are engaging in tangible activities that can have a long-term beneficial impact on the environment," stated Gary Cohen, president and co-founder of Health Care Without Harm.  "The cumulative effect of hundreds, even thousands of hospitals working to save the environment is exciting, because health care is very large, makes up a large portion of the economy, and can move other segments of our society and our business world to engage in sustainable operations."

Cohen cited examples of how health care has made significant changes that helped improve the environment and human health.   "Just about 15 years ago, health care was one of the primary sources of dioxin in our atmosphere—a poison that is generated by incineration of plastics and chemicals.  Hospitals have now almost completely shut down hospital-based incineration programs, and are managing their waste in ways that reduce the need for incineration."

Only a few years ago mercury thermometers were widely used in hospitals.  Mercury is a highly dangerous neurotoxin that is responsible for the contamination of thousands of lakes and streams in the United States.  However, through the combined work of hospital purchasing representatives, group purchasing organizations and manufacturers, mercury is no longer found in hospital thermometers and is virtually eliminated from home thermometers as well.  Health Care Without Harm has partnered with the World Health Organization to conduct a world-wide effort to eliminate mercury from the health systems of other countries such as the Philippines and Nepal.

"The sustainability path has many beginnings—from recycling paper to phasing out mercury-containing products,"  said Janet Brown, Director of Facility Engagement for Practice Greenhealth.  "But these beginning activities are stepping-stones to 100% green energy procurement, elimination of chlorinated plastics from building materials and appointment of a Director of Sustainability to oversee initiatives.  The health care community is making serious strides, recognizing sustainability's connection to wellness, fiscal responsibility and quality patient care.  Practice Greenhealth members recognize that Earth Day is every day!"  

Over 250 hospitals will be recognized for their environmental accomplishments on May 12 when Practice Greenhealth presents their Environmental Excellence Awards at CleanMed, the international conference to catalyze environmental improvements in health care.  Learn more and join the learning community at www.cleanmed.org

About Practice Greenhealth

Practice Greenhealth is the nation's leading membership and networking organization for institutions in the healthcare community that have made a commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly practices. Members include hospitals, healthcare systems, businesses and other stakeholders engaged in the greening of healthcare to improve the health of patients, staff and the environment. For more information on Practice Greenhealth, healthy initiatives, current trends, news and views, and other links to earth-friendly organizations, visit www.practicegreenhealth.org.

About Health Care Without Harm

HCWH is an international coalition of more than 430 organizations in 52 countries, working to transform the health care industry worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. For more information on HCWH, see www.noharm.org.  

SOURCE Health Care Without Harm

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