CleanMed Conference Takes on Health Care's Environmental Impact

Apr 22, 2010, 9:00 AM, Posted by RWJF Blog Team

Health care facilities create more than two million tons of waste annually and routinely dispose of dangerous pollutants, resulting in a disturbing irony: The hospitals and clinics we rely upon to keep us healthy may be contributing to poor health in the first place.

Fortunately, there is an increasing awareness of this issue. Health Care Without Harm leverages the green movement’s momentum to advocate for eco-friendly design, building, purchasing and disposal practices in the health care sector. More than 430 organizations in 52 countries have joined together in this initiative, to demonstrate their commitment towards improving environmental and human health.

As part of Health Care Without Harm, we’re supporting a series of research papers directed at the intersection of environmental, patient, and worker safety issues related to building and operating health care institutions. The first paper, published last year, addresses resilient flooring, evaluating potential health impacts of vinyl flooring and the leading alternatives – synthetic rubber, polyolefin and linoleum — currently in the health care marketplace. By simply switching flooring materials, health care facilities can dramatically decrease staff and patient exposure to bioaccumulative toxins while significantly scaling back the demand of environmentally harmful compounds like PVC.

Transformative ideas are crucial to create change within health care. To learn about some of these ideas and participate in the conversation, Pioneer Senior Program Officer and Team Director Paul Tarini will participate in a panel discussion at the 2010 CleanMed conference May 11-13 in Baltimore. CleanMed seeks to accelerate the health care sector’s commitment to environmental sustainability and regenerative health to improve the health of people and the environment.  This year’s event also features Health Care Without Harm Executive Director Gary Cohen as a speaker.

Paul will post a few highlights on Pioneering Ideas following the conference. Until then, we look forward to hearing your ideas about how the health care industry can improve its environmental footprint.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.