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Healthy Health Care

Creating healthy hospitals and elder care facilities

Why Focus on Health Care Facilities?

There are 5,810 registered hospitals in the U.S. that see about 32 million inpatients, 83 million outpatients and 108 million emergency room patients per year. Thus a large number of individuals may be exposed to toxic pesticides in health care settings. Some hospital patients are especially vulnerable to the toxic effects of pesticides.

Hospitals have a special obligation to demonstrate leadership in instituting effective and safer pest management in keeping with the medical profession's basic tenet of "first, do no harm."

Fortunately, a method of pest control called Integrated Pest Management (IPM) eliminates or greatly reduces the need to respond to pests with hazardous pesticide products and helps ensure a healthier environment for hospital patients, staff, and visitors. The focus of IPM is to prevent pest problems by reducing or eliminating sources of pest food, water, and shelter in hospitals and on their grounds and by maintaining healthy lawns and landscapes. The first approach to controlling a pest outbreak is improving sanitation, making structural repairs (such as fixing leaky pipes and caulking cracks), and using physical or mechanical controls such as screens, traps and weeders. A least hazardous chemical is used only when other strategies have failed. If a pesticide is used, the hospital community must be notified prior to the application in order to take necessary precautions.

IPM strategies are successfully being implemented at schools, parks, government facilities and hospitals nationwide. For example, IPM programs at Oregon Health and Sciences University, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard University, the City of San Francisco, Seattle Parks and Recreation Department, New York City Public Schools, the General Services Administration demonstrate that IPM can be economically and effectively implemented.

The 2003 report Healthy Hospitals by Beyond Pesticides and Health Care Without Harm, along with the 1995 reports, A Failure to Protect by Beyond Pesticides and the New York Attorney's General report Pest Management in New York State Hospitals, adds to the data available on the types and amounts of pesticides used at health care facilities across the country. It confirms and elaborates on previous findings that hazardous pesticides are commonly used in U.S. hospitals.