Hospitals are places of healing but if they pose more threat than health, it is a right moment to reconsider if we are at the right place. REUTERS, on Jun23, 2016 reported that the U.S healthcare sector, alone, contributes about 8% in the environmental pollution along with providing healthcare protection to people against the uprising life-threatening diseases. They stated that U.S is the world’s 13th-largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG’s) – more than all of the UK. U.S healthcare system despite of their medical efficiency is one of the biggest contributors in the greenhouse gas emission and environmental pollution.
According to the source, emission of this greenhouse gases, either directly or indirectly from the healthcare sector is contributing about 12% in the formation of acid rain, 10% of smog formation. In addition to this, in 2013 about 9% of respiratory diseases are contributed by these harmful gases.
One of the coauthor Dr. Jodi Sherman, from Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut said that “Unfortunately in our quest to take care of individual patients, we are causing this undue harm.”
Dr. Jodi Sherman along with an environmentalist Matthew Eckelman, from the Northeastern University for the first time analyzed the emission of gases from the healthcare equipments, goods and services by using an economic model based on a federal data. The research study was published on June9, 2016.
According to the research study published in PLOS one , about 30% increase in the GHG emission from the U.S healthcare sector has been observed over the past decade. The study also listed the largest contributors to emissions by expenditure category; about 36% from healthcare, physician and clinical services contributes about 12% and about 10% is contributed by the Prescription Drugs, excluded the emission of waste anesthetic gases. About 36% of the emission of GHG’s is done by power generation suppliers, 8% by government services and about 4% by the non-residential commercial and healthcare construction and 3% by the basic organic chemicals manufacturing bodies. Emission of chlorofluorocarbon gases (CCL4) from these machines and equipments thinning the ozone layer around us shielding us form the ultraviolet radiations (UV) coming from the sun.
According to another report by REUTERS, it has been reported that U.S hospitals spending heavy amount on the unused cancer drugs, but our concern is where these unused drugs will go? The term “unused cancer drugs “refer to the medicines come in super-sized single used packages and the excess medicine then disposed of. Since, these drugs are used against a deadliest disease, what will happen if they will be disposed improperly? There improper and incomplete disposal poses a deadly threat to the environment health as in, the chemicals released from these medicines when they meet their half-life, indirectly pollute the environment. Addition of these chemicals to water or air turns our environment into an unhealthy place to breathe. It can be said that if sustainability between environment and healthcare is disturbed, it will upset our chances of diseases free survival.
An estimated number of 12.6 million deaths occurred each year due to environmental pollution – WHO and about 8% of the greenhouse emission is contributed by the healthcare sector in United States.
An environmental engineer Matthew Eckelman amidst the interview said that, “We don’t want to imply that we should compromise on patient care for the sake of these emissions.” He also added “But there are many opportunities to reduce this waste without compromising quality of care without affecting the patient experience at all.”
There is an inverse relation between the environment sustainability and disease burden. Nature demands balance in everything; from day and night to sleep and wake cycle. Similarly, cleaner environment mean less diseases provision. World Health Organization (WHO) has started taking steps towards the development of green hospitals which are more likely to protect the environment from the hospital pollutants. For example, the development of green hospitals or neutral or carbon-negative hospitals reduce the emission of carbon into air. These hospitals are architected with green walls and green roofs along with overgrown greenery outside the hospitals. Though, no hospital has yet acquired carbon neutral or carbon-negative, toxic free built environment, zero waste status, the work is in process.
WHO has provided seven elements of a climate friendly environment: Energy efficiency, Green building design, Alternative energy generation, Transportation, Food, Waste and Water.
If these elements are incorporated into actions while building a healthcare center, there is a huge margin that we can keep the provision of medical facilities upgraded along with the sustainability between the environment.