The story of the Sambhavna Clinic, a non-profit holistic health clinic in Bhopal, India, built to treat those injured by the Union Carbide toxic gas release in 1984. enlarge video
HCWH's co-founder Gary Cohen is a recipient of the prestigious Skoll Award. This video, chronicling the evolution of HCWH's work, premiered at the 2009 Skoll World Forum. enlarge video
Sustainable Health Care
Healthcare can become more sustainable in many ways. In Europe, Health Care Without Harm is focusing on avoiding toxic substances, segregating and minimising waste, and adopting green purchasing strategies.
Of course, environmentally responsible healthcare doesn't end there: green buildings, energy efficiency, food and pharmaceuticals are just a few of the many areas in which hospitals can improve their environmental profile. Explore our site to learn more.
Avoiding Toxic Substances
PVC is the most commonly-used plastic in medical devices. It is manufactured from chemicals which cause cancer and it releases dioxins when disposed of. To be used in medical devices, PVC has to be softened with phthalates.
Phthalates are classified by the European Union as CMRs (carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic). Evidence is mounting that the levels of phthalates to which neonates are exposed during treatment in hospital with PVC devices could cause long-term health problems.
Are there alternatives? More and more devices made without PVC are available on the European market. Hospitals all over Europe, from Sweden to Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have already phased out PVC from neonatal units.
Other substances of concern include mercury, commonly used in blood pressure devices and thermometers, and brominated flame retardants. Find out more about mercury-free healthcare.
Adopting Green Purchasing Strategies
The hospitals making the fastest progress toward sustainability are making fundamental changes to their purchasing strategies.
By adding environmental criteria to their tender requests, they are reducing the amount of harmful substances they buy, while driving innovation for the development of safer alternatives.
Sweden and Austria are particularly advanced in green procurement. Find out more about green purchasing.
Segregating and Minimising Waste
As much as 90% of healthcare waste is packaging, paper, and other ordinary, non-infectious, non-hazardous refuse. If made from the right materials, it can all potentially be recycled.
It is therefore vital to keep this waste separate from infectious and hazardous waste: just one bloodied bandage contaminates an entire bag of ordinary waste.
Infectious waste has to be decontaminated. The materials are then lost for recycling and, if incinerated, release pollutants including heavy metals and dioxins.
Find out more about waste management and non-incineration technologies.
- Addressing Climate Change in the Health Care Setting: Opportunites for Action (pdf)
Outlines seven steps health care systems can take to reduce their climate footprint while improving public health, and presents examples from around the world
- Better Food, Better Health, Better Environment: The Benefits of Sustainable Food Procurement in Hospitals (pdf)
- Carbon Reduction for Health Systems
Learn more at the website of the NHS Sustainable Development Unit, UK
- Co-Benefits to Health of a Strong EU Climate Change Policy (pdf)
- Healthy Hospitals, Healthy Planet, Healthy People: Addressing Climate Change in Health Care Settings (pdf)
Aims at addressing the climate footprint of the health sector
- Lancet Series report on Health and Climate Change (pdf)
- Making the Case for Policy Makers (pdf)
- World Health Organization website for information about Climate and Health