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Safer Chemicals

Health care uses a range of different chemicals to do everything from providing life-saving medications to cleaning and disinfecting floors and surface to diagnostic testing in labs—not to mention the chemicals used to formulate the myriad of supplies clinicians use every day for patient care. While many chemical compounds have beneficial uses that can improve or support health, an inadequate chemical testing and regulatory system in the United States underpins a variety of hazardous exposures to chemicals that can seriously impact health. Health care providers work every day to “first, do no harm” yet may inadvertently be affecting the health of patients, staff and the community through the selection and use of certain chemicals or products formulated with these chemicals.

Going Beyond Compliance: Choosing Safer Chemicals

The health care sector is recognizing that chemicals can play a significant role in the development of disease—even at miniscule levels—and is finding ways to not only increase its compliance with chemical regulations and guidelines, but also go beyond those regulations to develop a framework for choosing safer chemicals where possible. Hospitals have begun robust programs to segregate and manage pharmaceutical wastes, eliminate the use of mercury, PVC and DEHP, and brominated flame retardants, and utilize greener chemicals and equipment for cleaning and maintenance processes, as well as transition to safer sterilants and disinfectants. Some leading health systems have taken this one step further by developing comprehensive chemicals policies or purchasing policies that eliminate the purchase of products containing certain targeted chemicals of concern.

Practice Greenhealth provides support to health care facilities by:

  • Determining best practices to meet environmental compliance regulations for chemicals.
  • Developing programs (in collaboration with its membership) to transition away from the use of certain high-risk chemicals.
  • Working closely with the health care supply chain to identify safer products and materials.
  • Educating the sector about recent research and science suggesting cause for concern. 

Learn more about the health impact of chemical exposures and how health care institutions are addressing these concerns:

Health Impacts of Chemical Exposure
Beyond the purchase and use of supplies and materials, healthcare also contributes to chemical exposure and other environmental impacts through emissions and disposal of wastes. (login required)

Chemicals Policy Development
There is growing scientific evidence that chemical exposures are contributing to many of the critical and chronic diseases and conditions now being addressed by our healthcare system, including obesity, diabetes, learning disabilities, cancers, and infertility. (login required)

Green Cleaning
The process of cleaning and disinfecting healthcare facilities can involve potentially hazardous substances. (login required)

Hazardous Waste Characterization
It is important to know the correct classification of all of the organization’s waste, as different sets of rules will apply to the facility depending on the total amounts of each type of hazardous waste generated per year. (login required)

Integrated Pest Management
Controlling pests in health care facilities is important to prevent vector-borne disease transmission and to maintain cleanliness. (login required)

Mercury Elimination
Mercury is a chemical element (Hg), a heavy metal that is unique in that it is commonly used in liquid form. (login required)

Increased awareness around the presence of pharmaceuticals in drinking water has resulted in closer scrutiny and increased regulatory oversight of pharmaceutical waste. (login required)

Sterilants and High-Level Disinfectants
In a health care setting, it is essential to be able to control infectious organisms. (login required)


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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.

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