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E-M:/ Health Care Without Harm



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Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org
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Enviro-Mich:  Here is some information about environmental issues related to
health care practices -- Anne Woiwode

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Health Care Without Harm: The Campaign for Environmentally Responsible Health
Care (HCWH) is an international collaborative effort to eliminate pollution
from health care practices without compromising safety or care.

The group was formed in September 1996, when representatives of 28
organizations met to create this new campaign.  Currently, more than 80
groups, including physicians, nurses and other health care professionals;
labor; religious organizations; environmental justice groups; community health
advocates; farmers; and environmental organizations, are part of this
environmental and public health endeavor.

HCWH is concerned that health care practices, especially medical waste
incineration, are a leading source of dioxin and mercury emissions. These
emissions contaminate our fish, meat and dairy foods. When we eat these foods,
we ingest the dioxin and mercury which is then stored in our fatty tissues.
Consumers Reports testing of meat-based baby foods found that "a baby who ate
just one jar  - just 2.5 ounces - of an average meat-based baby food on a
given day would consume around 100 times the EPA's daily limit of dioxin."
(June, 1998, page 53).

Dioxin has been linked to cancer, learning disabilities, birth defects,
infertility, nervous system disorders and endometriosis. It is produced
when products containing chlorine, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
intravenous bags, are burned in medical waste incinerators.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin and reproductive toxin. Approximately 10
percent of the nation's mercury pollution comes from the burning of medical
waste. Mercury is used in thermometers, blood pressure devices, batteries,
switches, and many laboratory chemicals.

In March 1997, HCWH released First, Do No Harm, a report which provided
an overview of the problems of medical waste generation and disposal. The
study found that America's hospitals were generating about 4 billion pounds (2
million tons) of waste annually.

HEALTH CARE WITHOUT HARM: PROJECTS AND ACTIVITIES

More information is available at the HCWH Web Site: http://www.noharm.org

1.  The "Greening Hospitals" Report is now available at http://www.ewg.org,
    and includes a copy of the questionnaire that you could take to
    evaluate your local hospital, which is the second phase of the project.

2.  The HCWH International Working Group is doing outreach, particularly to
    third world countries.

3.  A consumer information booklet is being developed - It will
    describe alternatives to mercury, PVC, etc.

4.  A document is being prepared that will describe alternative medical
    waste disposal technologies.

5.  "Model State Regulations for Medical Waste Incinerators" are available,
     with strategies for getting them adopted.

6.  Medical societies are adopting resolutions to reduce PVC and mercury use.

Some additional information is available from Sierra Club.



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