Chemicals are found throughout the health care setting, from conventional cleaning products to furniture that releases hazards into the air over time. Scientific evidence continues to grow about the potential impact of hazardous chemicals on human health. A few reasons to be concerned include the following:
- Virtually all people are exposed regularly to a complex mixture of industrial chemicals and other hazardous pollutants, according to government studies.
- Many commonly used chemicals are linked to a wide range of negative health effects, including cancer, birth defects, and infertility, to name just a few.
- Employees have an increased risk of chemically-related disease when they are exposed more closely, more often, and for longer periods of time to chemicals of concern from cleaners, disinfectants, and other sources in the workplace.
Leading hospitals are developing cost-effective ways to reduce exposures to potentially harmful chemicals for everyone who enters a hospital facility, including patients, staff, and visitors, and the surrounding communities as well, aligned with their missions to protect public health and ensure the wellbeing of employees and others.
These efforts have led to a wide range of benefits, including:
- Healthier patients, employees, and communities
- Reduced liability
- Reduced hazardous waste disposal costs
- Increased employee and patient satisfaction
- Positive increases in recruitment and retention of top talent
- Stronger community ties and support
- Healthier environment
Safer chemical strategies are a differentiator from regional competitors and improve employee and patient satisfaction, as well as increase community engagement. Many approaches are cost-neutral or result in cost savings over time.
Our members have found strategic, effective methods to reduce chemical exposures either by starting small with one or two primary areas of focus or by looking across all areas and making comprehensive reduction plans. This work often aligns with the ethical mission of health systems to care for the environment and the communities that host them.
Practice Greenhealth has developed many tools and resources that inspire and guide our member hospitals to set baselines, identify goals, and implement strategies aimed at reducing exposures to harmful chemicals.
The Environmental Excellence Awards are the nation’s premier recognition program for environmental performance in the health care sector. The Circle of Excellence Awards celebrate hospitals who have not only earned an award for all around sustainability achievement, but who have also been identified as the top scoring programs for each category of sustainability.
The Chemicals Circle celebrates facilities with sound chemical reduction policies and practices. Winners address toxicity through purchasing, change of products, services and equipment, and educate their staff and the community on hazardous chemicals:
Advocate Aurora Health
Hackensack Meridian Health*
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center*
Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital*
Stony Brook University Hospital*
U.S. Army, Brooke Army Medical Center
U.S. Army, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center*
VHA 23 Minneapolis VA Health Care System (Minneapolis, MN)*
*also a Top 25 honoree