What Hospitals are Doing
Health care facilities around the world are reducing their use of hazardous chemicals and materials. For example:
- More than 6,000 health care facilities in the U.S. are eliminating mercury-containing medical devices in favor of safer non-mercury alternatives
- Hospitals from Stockholm, to Prague, and throughout the U.S. are phasing out phthalate-containing PVC medical devices and switching to safer plastics
- Many hospitals are reducing pesticides by using integrated pest management techniques
- Many hospitals are choosing safer, less toxic building materials for new construction and renovation projects.
High-priority chemicals and materials include:
- PVC (vinyl plastic) and phthalates
- Brominated flame retardants
- Glutaraldehyde and ethylene oxide
- Volatile organic compounds in building materials
- Hazardous ingredients in cleaning products
What You Can Do
To address this problem in a comprehensive way, leading health care institutions are creating internal chemical policies to avoid the worst chemicals and to address the problem of untested chemicals in products.
Kaiser Permanente, the largest non-profit health system in the U.S., has a policy to avoid chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive problems, and genetic mutation, and asks its vendors about toxicity testing of chemicals used in products. System-wide policies guide hospitals in their purchasing decisions.
For information, examples, and guidance for your health care facility, see Guide to Choosing Safer Products and Chemicals: Implementing Chemicals Policy in Health Care (pdf).
While the health care sector can do its part to reduce people's exposure to hazardous chemicals, government policies also must be updated. See State and Federal Policies section.