More than a third of our member hospitals have identified furniture and furnishings as an area where they’d like to reduce patient, employee, and visitor exposure to chemicals of concern, especially as evidence shows that many of the chemicals used in these products off-gas, or migrate out, from the finished product and get into the air and dust, exposing employees, patients, and visitors to the chemicals.
Targeted chemicals of concern in furniture and furnishings include:
- Formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen, found in furniture, cabinets, countertops, and many other products.
- Flame retardant chemicals, which are linked to reproductive, neurocognitive, and immune system issues.
- Per- and poly-fluorinated compounds (PFCs or PFAS) make everyday products stain, water, and grease resistant, but also don’t break down easily in the environment and build up in humans, animals, and the environment.
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or vinyl, can be used as a cover fabric and other components of some furniture, in addition to its uses in devices, gloves, flooring, and more. It is toxic to manufacture and can contain harmful additives.
- Antimicrobials, including triclosan and triclocarban, that, when present in furnishings, promise to reduce infection risk but may actually create a false sense of confidence and also expose health care workers to toxic chemicals.
Healthy Interiors goal
Ensure that 30 percent of the annual volume of furnishings and furniture purchases (based on cost) eliminate the use of formaldehyde, perfluorinated compounds, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), antimicrobials, and all flame retardants.
Many hospitals now incorporate Practice Greenhealth’s Healthy Interiors goal into their institutional purchasing policy, focusing on the following furnishings categories:
- Built-in and modular casework
- Cubicle/privacy curtains
- Mattresses and pads (table, stretcher, and pediatric pads)
- Panels and partitions
- Seating (chairs, stools, sofas, benches, recliners, loungers, etc.)
- Storage units and shelving (cabinets, filing cabinets, dressers, drawers, shelves, etc.)
- Systems (multi-component furniture systems)
- Textiles (panel, upholstery, and window fabric)
- Wall coverings
- Window coverings (shades)
- Work surfaces (tables, desks, overbed tables, etc.)
Practice Greenhealth offers resources to help our members develop policies and plans for moving away from products that contain chemicals of concern. Our goal is to provide step-by-step resources that will make it simpler for any hospital to design, implement, and measure the success of their chemical reduction efforts.
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Practice Greenhealth is the health care sector’s go-to source for information, tools, data, resources, and expert technical support on sustainability initiatives that help hospitals and health systems meet their health, financial, and community goals.