Furnishings are one source of hazardous chemical exposures in the health care setting. (Ali Yahya)
Every day, patients and employees are exposed to a wide array of chemicals in hospitals and health care facilities. Many of these chemicals have been shown to have a lasting negative impact on individual health, public health, and the environment.
Furnishings are one source of hazardous chemical exposures in the health care setting, posing potential risks to employees, patients, and communities. Toxic chemicals can migrate out of the furnishings into dust, food, air, water, and ecosystems during their life cycle. If harmful chemicals are used to make furnishings, communities that host manufacturing facilities also can be exposed to those chemicals.
Health Care Without Harm has identified some of the worst chemicals and materials in furnishings and has created criteria that help institutions avoid these chemicals of concern and lists of products that meet these criteria.
The Safer Chemicals program has worked with health care purchasers from across the country to eliminate targeted chemicals of concern from their hospital furnishings, with almost 140 reporting such purchases in 2018. More than 85 manufacturers have developed lists of products that meet the Healthy Interiors criteria.
As a result of this initiative, health care institutions across the country have reduced exposures to harmful chemicals by adopting the healthy interiors criteria, eliminating known hazards, and switching to safer alternatives.
Many leading health systems are members of Practice Greenhealth, our membership organization. Practice Greenhealth provides tools, resources, and a community of practice to implement sustainable practices in health care. The healthy interiors goal helps member hospitals facilitate the purchasing of products that meet our criteria and achieve safer materials benchmarks.