Hospitals in the United States are beginning to recognize that the health of people is interlinked with the health of the surrounding community and the environment at large.
Health care officials are adopting a progressively ecological approach, reports say. They are doing away with incinerators, procuring safer construction materials and serving up healthier food for patients.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, chronic diseases and conditions now affect more than one third of the US population.
In spite of medical advancements, scientific evidence shows an increase in asthma, autism, learning disabilities, birth defects, childhood brain cancer, endometriosis and other chronic conditions linked to toxic pollutants, notes Stacy Malkan
He is the communications director for Health Care Without Harm, a coalition of 450 groups in 55 countries working to transform the health care industry.
The campaign of such advocacy groups seems to have had some positive impact.
In 1995, for example, medical waste incinerators were the number-one source of dioxin, a most potent carcinogen, cancer-causing chemical.
The US Environmental Protection Agency had warned that incinerators were responsible for 10 percent of mercury emissions.
But now a decade later, more than 5,000 medical waste incinerators have closed down in the US. Fewer than 100 remain. Thousands of hospitals are phasing out products that contain mercury.
Or take the case of PVC or vinyl extensively used in construction industry. It also produces dioxin. It is toxic throughout its lifecycle. Now more and more hospitals are opting for PVC-free carpets and wall-coverings.
With the health care industry's purchasing power, "We can force suppliers to generate environmentally sensitive products," a top executive has said.
Stacy Malkan says it should be possible to make health care industry ecologically sustainable without compromising on patient safety or care.