There were some interesting observations when I recently visited a friend in the hospital. We were chatting, I was wishing him well, when suddenly a cleaning staff person entered and went directly to the bathroom.
Within seconds we were overwhelmed by a nauseatingly sweet smell, possibly attempting to mimic the scent of bubble gum. We looked at one another and grimaced. Then my friend proceeded to tell me of the appalling toxicity surrounding his supposedly sterile environment (he’s a grass-head, like me).
I couldn’t believe how a hospital, of all places, was minimally a part of the green movement. With the exception of some blue recycling garbage cans that looked as if they could only hold a handful, I could not find any other attempts at lowering the carbon footprint.
Out of curiosity, I visited a few more medical facilities and it occurred to me that this was an industry that needed some green guidance.
A Toxic Plume
Industrial cleaning products that are derived from synthetic, often poisonous chemicals seem to have been slowly accumulating in our air, water and possibly food. Even more of a concern revolves around how the toxicity of these ingredients just may be hurting our children.
In the study, ‘Neurobehavioral effects of developmental toxicity’ published in the The Lancet Neurology (2/14) it was stated that,
“Neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments, affect millions of children worldwide, and some diagnoses seem to be increasing in frequency. Industrial chemicals that injure the developing brain are among the known causes for this rise in prevalence.”
Yes, it is important for hospitals to maintain a strict protocol when it comes to slaying the onslaught of germs that walk through their door everyday. Hospital-acquired infections are common.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospital-acquired infections affect approximately 1 in 25 patients.
As a result, powerful, potent chemicals such as alcohol, clorox, ammonia and chlorine are used to clean practically everything. What many do not realize or are too fearful to try is the same powerful, potent cleaning capability of green industrial cleaning products.
The Market Has Caught Up
Whether multi-purpose cleaners or disinfectants and deodorizers, green industrial cleaning products have finally made it to a reputable comparison.
According to Dan Henroid, the sustainability officer of UCSF Medical Center,
"What happened is that the market has finally caught up to the demand, (We) and other hospitals have pushed for chemicals that use less toxins, and suppliers finally have enough variety to meet all of our needs, to meet the stringent cleaning standards for hospitals, and also do it with fewer toxins." (SF Gate 5/8/13)
More Hospitals Follow
As UCSF became one of the leaders in greener hospitals, several have followed suit. In September of 2013 Becker’s Hospital Review reported on 50 of the greenest hospitals in America. These included New York Presbyterian, Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, Baltimore’s Sinai Hospital, University of Michigan Medical Center and Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut.
Non-toxic products for hospitals are a possibility. More choices than ever are available offering less fumes, cleaner air, and efficient lighting.
Hopefully medical facilities across the US and possibly the globe will enter the hospital green revolution so you can visit a sick friend without getting sick yourself.