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niversity of Chicago researchers recently completed a groundbreaking study of the US health care sector’s carbon footprint, reports sciencedaily.com. According to the research team, the health care sector currently accounts for 8 percent of the nation’s overall carbon dioxide emissions, the main cause of global warming. The lead author says she hopes the study results will draw more attention to the impact of health care on the environment. “In this country,” she says, “the primary focus is on issues surrounding patient safety, health care quality and cost containment… The health care sector, in general, may be a bit slower than other sectors to put this on their radar screen. But given the focus on health care policy and environmental policy, it might be interesting – if not wise – to start accounting for environmental externalities in health care.” The research team determined health care’s carbon footprint by examining health care spending using a model of environmental impact called the environmental input-output life cycle assessment (EIOLCA) model, which was developed by the Green Design Institute at CarnegieMellon University. The EIOLCA assesses the direct and indirect effects of health care activities on the environment, as well as of the production and distribution of health care commodities. “Carbon intensity,” a measurement of environmental impact, is estimated by each dollar of commodity produced. This complex model of assessment, researchers claim, yields an accurate gauge of overall carbon emissions. Not surprisingly, hospitals were found to be the largest contributor of carbon emissions in the health care sector due to their high energy demands. The pharmaceutical industry came in second, attributable largely to the high energy demands associated with manufacturing and transportation. “Obviously, health care… is very highly valued; you’re not going to shut down a hospital because of its environmental impact or not produce a drug that you think is going to save lives because of carbon output,” says the study’s lead author. “But this reminds people in health care that we’re not a trivial part of the issue.” The research team suggests that hospitals improve their energy efficiency by adopting recycling programs and by purchasing supplies from environmentally friendly suppliers. These types of measures can have a huge impact. For example, the University of Chicago Medical Center’s sustainability program diverts more than 500 pounds of waste from landfills every day and has saved roughly $15,000 in energy costs annually.
EPA Proposes Adding Hazardous Pharma Wastes to the Universal Waste Rule
PA officials recently proposed adding hazardous pharmaceutical wastes to the Universal Waste Rule as part of a larger effort to protect public health and the environment, reports epa.gov. In addition, the agency has called for a simpler, more streamlined system for disposal that will make it easier for generators to safely collect and dispose of hazardous wastes. The proposed rule would apply to pharmacies, hospitals, physicians and dentists offices, outpatient care centers, ambulatory health care services, veterinary clinics and other facilities that generate hazardous pharma wastes. The rule would also make it possible for generators to dispose of nonhazardous pharma waste as universal waste, and thus remove unregulated waste from wastewater treatment plants and landfills. The collection of personal medications from the public for proper disposal would be facilitated at various locations across the nation. Currently, the Universal Waste Rule includes such items as batteries, pesticides and a variety of other items found in industrial and household settings.
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Medical Waste Management APR-JUN 2010
2nd Quarter 2010 issue of Medical Waste Management