Forget about the toxic lead-lined MRI suites, and do not throw to the wind the outdated CT systems. Squash the frustration for those MRI bulbs that burn out and take far too long to replace. Medical imaging is going “green,” and several new technologies are poised to enhance the medical imaging and healthcare industry.
Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E) is an independent and not surprisingly non-for-profit organization that promotes environmental sustainability in the health care industry. H2E was founded in 1998 with agreements among four organizations (EPA, American Nurses Association, American Hospital Association, and Health Care Without Harm) with the goal of eliminating mercury, reducing chemical waste, and reducing the health care industries overall waste volume. The organization helps hospitals reduce their environmental footprint, from reducing the use of toxic chemicals like carpet glues and PVC to increasing recycling efficiency and disposal of unwanted electronic equipment.
This year more than ever before thanks to the sudden “green” push in the U.S. hospitals are taking a hard look at the materials in their facilities and the potential harmful environmental impact associated with them. It is also beginning to make sense financially, reducing toxicity increasing recycling and curbing waste is effectively reducing costs. In medical economics the hard part may be the “greening” of the chief financial officer who is tasked with balancing the initial cost of change with long-term savings.
Hospitals are extremely focused on the bottom line due to the massive costs of the health business operations and overhead expenses. The long-standing misperception of implementing new environmental programs is that they will cost more money. Although the focus is to be good stewards of health care dollars savings can be realized in waste reduction, extended life cycles of products and water and energy reduction. The bonus is the benefit from enhanced public perception of an environmentally sensitive health care provider.
As with most green ideas these days it costs money up front and pays you on the back end, essentially an investment in green with a guaranteed pay off, often a predictable one. The organizations website offers ideas, information and guidelines promoting green and providing the scoop on local state regulations and resources.
H2E has 1600 hospital partners and it has also teamed up with the “Green Guide to Healthcare,” a sustainable design toolkit for integrating environmental principles and practices into health care. The guide uses a credit system similar to LEED.
Green Shielding Solutions, a maker of radiology shielding products, is a leading example of a manufacturer operating green. They have partnered with imaging machine component makers Thogus Products and Vulcan Global Manufacturing Solutions to develop tungsten-filled polymer shielding products and parts for medical imaging machines. Tungsten is a brittle metal with a very high melting point and equivalent specific gravity and thickness as lead WITHOUT the toxicity.
This new tungsten product is compliant with the European Union RoHS Directive, which restricts the use of a wide variety of hazardous substances in electronic equipment. The U.S., well behind the green curve, is trying to catch up; legislation similar to that of the European Union is on the table currently. This is pushing the industry to find alternatives to lead given that the legislation calls for a complete ban by the year 2010.