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Nov 21, 2009

Sick-care industry responsible for 8 percent of US carbon emissions

The Journal of the American Medical Association has published a report conducted by the University of Chicago that estimates nearly 10 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions come from the health care industry. Findings reveal that hospitals are the number one polluter with pharmaceuticals at a close second.

Jeanette Chung, PhD, and study co-author David Meltzer, MD, PhD, procured their findings by analyzing 2007 health care spending numbers through the environmental input-output life cycle assessment (EIOLCA) model. By capturing both direct and indirect environmental effects caused by day-to-day health care industry actions, the model was able to assess the carbon intensity of each dollar spent on various activities and come up with an estimate.

The high energy demands of operating and maintaining hospitals account for their number one position as health care carbon emitters. Similarly, pharmaceutical companies expend tremendous amounts of energy in researching drugs, manufacturing them, and transporting and distributing them.

The goal of the study was to draw attention to the environmental impact of health care in general and to highlight the possibility of improving environmental efficiency in health care. The study's authors hope to bring awareness to the issue of carbon emissions and to encourage innovation that will make the health care industry cleaner with less negative impact on the environment.

Researchers suggest that hospitals can improve their environmental impact by purchasing goods and services from environmentally-friendly suppliers, as well as implementing recycling programs. Architecturally, hospitals can take more advantage of natural sunlight by implementing facility designs that capture natural light and utilize it for energy, light, and temperature control.

The University of Chicago Medical Center has a sustainability program of its own that requires 90 percent of hospital cleaning supplies to bear Green Seal Certification. The center also operates a recycling program that deflects 500 pounds of plastic waste each day from landfills to recycling plants.

The U.S. Green Building Council's LEED certification program is another option facilities can strive to achieve by implementing energy efficient designs and technologies. LEED recognizes building and community designs that strategically aim to improve energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions reduction, improved environmental quality, and concerted stewardship of resources that recognizes their environmental impact.

From a preventative perspective, the health care industry needs an ideology overhaul that redirects the focus from symptom treatment to healthy lifestyles that incorporate nutrient-dense diets rich in superfoods and living, whole foods. Proper nutrition and preventative natural medicine will keep people out of hospitals and away from pharmaceutical drugs, which will in turn have a positive impact on the well-being of the populace and on the environment. -naturalnews

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