A Greener Operating Room

by Jessica Wolff & Kaeleigh Sheehan

[From Huffington Post] As your stretcher is wheeled into a hospital operating room (OR) and you stare up at the bright surgical lights, you are likely thinking about your impending surgery, not if those lights have LED bulbs or if the anesthetic gas you are about to breathe contributes to climate change. But maybe you should be. Hospitals consume over 10% of the nation's energy and generate more than 5.9 million tons of waste a year, and the health care sector is responsible for 8% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The OR consumes more than its fair share of resources, eating up, on average, one third of a hospital's supply costs, consuming a considerable amount of energy, and producing 20-30% of a hospital's total waste.

Despite the Hippocratic Oath to "First, do no harm," the way in which hospitals operate today can negatively impact the health of patients, staff, the community, and the environment. The burning of fossil fuels and the pollution of our air and water have been shown to have direct ties to an increase in asthma and allergies, certain types of cancers, immune-mediated diseases, and endocrine dysfunction. As hospitals increasingly recognize the fundamental connection between environmental and human health, there is no better place to start reducing our impact than in the OR where a disproportionate amount of resources are used, so even small changes can produce significant results...(Continue reading)

Jessica Wolff is the Environmental Sustainability Advisor at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health.

Kaeleigh Sheehan is the Member Engagement Manager of Practice Greenhealth's Greening the Operating Room Initiative.