We have increasing amounts of data about exposure to toxic chemicals and the effects on human health – such exposure can play a significant role in the cause and development of diseases. Therefore healthcare facilities have a particularly urgent responsibility to use safer, and fewer, chemicals. Hospitals strive to segregate and manage pharmaceutical wastes; eliminate mercury, PVC and DEHP; use greener chemicals and equipment for cleaning; use safer disinfectants and sterilizing agents; and move to automatic machine washing for sterilization of medical instruments, to prevent staff exposure to chemicals.
- Explore using pre-finished vinyl flooring during patient room renovation, to eliminate use of strip and wax
- Approve fragrance-free policy
- Spend more on green chemicals
The Histology Laboratory eliminated 80 gallons of alcohol monthly, by purchasing two new, environmentally-friendly stainers that don’t use alcohol.
We eliminated the use of antimicrobial hand soaps containing triclosan or triclocarban. When cleaning floors, our automatic floor scrubber machines use only water (not chemicals).
We have virtually eliminated the disinfectant glutaraldehyde and moved to safer alternatives, such as hydrogen peroxide.
To stop manual disinfection of equipment (which exposes staff to disinfecting agents), we use automatic machine washers.
We use vacuums certified by the Carpet & Rug Institute’s Seal of Approval/Green Label program for commercial vacuums.
We make sure that these products in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit are free of PVC and DEHP: breast pumps, examination gloves and vascular catheters.
To reduce chemical pesticide use, we’ve implemented an integrated pest management plan that focuses on prevention as the primary means of pest control, both indoors in buildings and outdoors on grounds. Our pest management contractor has been certificatied green.
We reduced the use of EtO (ethylene oxide) gas, a highly toxic sterilizing agent for surgical instruments. Rather than running hundreds of 24-hour sterilization cycles each month, we now run 30 cycles. We purchased Sterrads – sterilizing machines that use hydrogen peroxide, a cleaner and more efficient sterilizing agent. (Also see Greening the OR.)
Stony Brook Medicine won a 2016 Vizient Sustainability Excellence Award, for our Microfiber Mop Program. Using microfiber – which is a more efficient cleaning method than using water and chemicals – yields many benefits. It helps the environment, makes it safer for staff to clean floors, and improves cleanliness of patient care areas. Cleaning staff no longer have to wring out dirty mops or handle buckets of dirty water. The process conserves water and microfiber is providing a more thorough cleaning of all surface areas of the flooring. Vizient Sustainability Excellence Awards are given by Vizient, the largest member-owned healthcare company in the country, to hospitals that demonstrate commitment to sustainability practices by implementing a new program with measurable success.
Francina Singh, Kathy Terwilliger, Michael DeMasi, Martha Houlihan, Cliff Roggemann and Lou Iaboni