A study published this last June has shed light on an alarming statistic for hospitals. If the healthcare system of the United States were a country, it would rank 13th in the world for hazardous greenhouse gas emissions. Published in PLOS ONE, the study unveils the environmental and health impact of our country’s health care industry.
Previously, investigators had only looked at the amounts of energy used by medical facilities in the United States, estimating that they were contributing 8% of the country’s greenhouse gases. This number changes dramatically when you begin to factor in other variables, such as medical waste disposal inside of hospital.
While hospitals are meant to secure the health and safety of the population, the methods are at the same time having a negative effect on public health. Due to the sheer number of harmful materials being produced during the course of health care in the United States, it is estimated that the pollutants generated are responsible for 470,000 DALYs annually. DALY – disability adjusted life years – is the measurement of years lost due to health issues, disabilities and premature death.
That number is comparable to the number of lives lost each year due to preventable medical errors as reported by the Institute of Medicine in 1999. That report sparked outrage, and major reform for patient safety in health care facilities. As this is of similar magnitude, it is important that health care providers take note of it now, and begin initiating practices that help to reduce their carbon footprint.
Medical Waste Disposal and the Environment
The way in which you are disposing of your hospital’s medical waste can make a drastic impact on your contribution to greenhouse gases. The production and then destruction of disposable products, such as red bags, emit dangerous gases into the breathing air. To reduce this, some hospitals have resorted to reusable containers where ever possible, especially in the transport of medical waste from its origination site to the storage area.
These containers follow all of the same guidelines outlined by the federal and state government, yet because they are being cleaned and reused continually, their use is reducing greenhouse gases. Just replacing the red bags in certain areas will make a big difference. Consider the tens of thousands you might use each year, and then multiply that number by the number of hospitals around the country. Once you begin to look at those numbers on a nationwide, or even statewide, scale you can see how the methods you use for medical waste disposal are a huge contributor to greenhouse gases.
Speak with MedWaste Management pros about actions you can take to reduce the amount of products being used to remove medical waste from your facility. Together, our mission can be to protect the inhabitants of the entire planet, not just the patients inside of our facility.