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Sep 14

Health Care Without Harm: An International Organization for Greener Medical Practices

The ever-evolving green revolution knows no boundaries. Individuals, organizations and companies far and wide are beginning to adopt more sustainable initiatives and practices in the interest of environmentalism. The medical/healthcare industry is no exception to this eco-friendly movement.

To help in this movement is the international coalition, Health Care Without Harm. Started in 1996, this entity was a response to EPA findings that the majority of mercury and dioxin emissions was caused by the burning of medical materials and waste.

What began as just 28 organizations has grown into an international network of hundreds of passionate groups such as hospitals, labor unions, health organizations and more, in 52 countries across the globe. To help keep members and leaders connected it boasts four offices located in Virginia, Brussels, Buenos Aires and Manila.

Non-profit organizations, healthcare facilities and systems are all eligible for membership. However, before being officially “accepted” they have to prove that their beliefs align with that of the group’s through an extensive discussion, additionally they must submit a letter of intent. Any joining organization must identify one primary contact who will work with Health Care Without Harm directly.

In its short history, Health Care Without Harm has made much progress, especially in the war on toxic mercury use. For one, it has helped eliminate the market for mercury-based medical equipment in the United States. Also, it was instrumental in getting mercury thermometers banned in the European Union. In the Philippines and Argentina, mercury-based medical tools have begun to be phased out and communities throughout Asia and Africa are also making safer choices.

The group has also had a direct role in the closing of thousands of medical waste incinerators around the world, meaning the release of toxic emissions—some that have even been shown to be damaging carcinogens—should be greatly decreased. Members divide their work by regions. Presently, the group’s coverage is divided among the U.S. and Canada, Europe, Southeast Asia, and America Latina.

Another initiative the group is working on is the Green Guide for Healthcare— a quantifiable, sustainable design toolkit that integrates enhanced environmental and health practices when planning, designing, constructing and maintaining modern healthcare facilities. Established about a decade ago, this project helps ensure that those throughout the medical/healthcare field actually follow through with their sustainability goals.

The group welcomes donations year-round for those wanting to help financially. Comprised of individuals that understand the power and impact our actions have on our planet, they are making conscious decisions every day to make it a better place for us and future generations. Now that’s what I call green.

Leslie Johnson is an avid health and nutrition blogger or As a mother, she is particularly passionate about teaching children about nutrition, health, body image, and exercise. If you have any questions for Leslie, feel free to leave them here.

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