The call for industries to become eco-friendly has not fallen on deaf ears. Any organization that wants to remain relevant to the population it serves is trying to meet this new demand. This includes healthcare. Hospitals and nursing home facilities face unique challenges when it comes to using ecologically sound practices.
About 15 percent of the waste that hospitals produce is toxic or radioactive, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Waste that’s incinerated releases pollutants into the atmosphere. The following green innovations, however, are transforming the way that healthcare facilities operate.
Mercury-free medical instruments
Mercury is a highly noxious chemical. Patients and healthcare workers such as nurses risk being poisoned when exposed to it. It exists in the environment naturally, but data from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) shows that the amount of mercury present in our wastewater has increased due to its use in healthcare. Broken thermometers are a common source of mercury exposure, particularly in cases when they’re incinerated and release toxins into the atmosphere. Information from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has demonstrated that blood pressure monitors can also contain between 70 to 90 grams of mercury. While organizations worldwide are calling for the use of mercury-free devices in healthcare settings by 2020, Rivadavia Hospital in Argentina, a country that is leading the way in mercury-free healthcare, has already eliminated mercury thermometers and replaced them with digital measuring instruments that are just as accurate.
The Environmental Protection Agency, who tracks how much water is used across industries, ranks healthcare as one of the top three when it comes to high water usage. Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, however, one of the most environmentally progressive in the world, has special low-flush plumbing fixtures that prevent excessive water use. They also use a sustainable water drainage system.
Artificial light can be a pollutant when it’s used in excess, according to recent research. Hospitals need high and constant electric lighting to perform critical procedures and operations, so being energy efficient is not a simple task. The University of Colorado Health: Medical Center of the Rockies, however, uses natural light in its clinical labs. Running a healthcare facility that enables natural light to enter also minimizes patient exposure to UV rays.
As you might learn in an online master’s of science in nursing, these are only a few of the steps that hospitals, clinics and nursing homes are taking to become more environmentally friendly. Nurses, who have a particularly high level of exposure to toxins, infectious susbstances and pollutants, are playing a leading role in hospitals becoming green. It should come as no surprise that the American Nursing Organization is a key advocate for healthcare to become healthier and create greener work spaces for hospitals.