What is “zero toxicity” in health care?
A toxic substance is defined as any chemical or mixture of chemicals which may be harmful to human and environmental health if inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed.
The topic area of zero toxicity goes beyond compliance and refers to the unnecessary use of chemicals, which have a potential negative effect on human and environmental health. This also goes beyond identified hazardous chemicals. A reduction of usage or seeking safer alternatives would be encouraged when targeting unnecessary use of potentially toxic chemicals in operations and products.
The health care sector also uses identified hazardous chemicals. When unnecessary use is identified with hazardous chemicals, reduction of use and safer alternatives will be sought.
Lastly, zero toxicity is about the safe disposal of hazardous and other toxic chemicals. Beyond maintaining compliance with regulations, this involves the proper recycling of batteries, the safe disposal of pharmaceuticals, and the safe disposal of other potentially toxic chemicals.
Why is zero toxicity important in health care?
The health care sector uses a high rate of chemicals for disinfecting, cleaning, pest control, treatments on furniture and built structures, within medical products, and other areas.
An example of areas where potentially toxic chemicals can be found in health care:
- Sterilants and disinfectants
- Medical products containing DEHP / PVC
- Furniture containing halogenated flame retardants, formaldehyde, perfluorinated compounds and PVC (also known as vinyl).
- Landscaping pesticides / herbicides
- Products and equipment containing mercury
Does the EES team have any strategic partnerships in achieving zero toxicity goals / targets?
The EES team aspires to work closely with infection control to identify and mitigate unnecessary use of chemicals in our patient and staff areas.
The Lower Mainland Facilities Management (LMFM) has the primary responsibility for planning and constructing facilities. The EES group plans to work closely with their procurement teams to ensure facilities are not built with potentially toxic materials and furnishings, which may contain potentially toxic chemicals are not purchased.
a. Ensure that 25% of the annual volume of free standing furniture and medical furnishings, purchased based on cost, eliminate the intentional use of halogenated flame retardants, formaldehyde, perfluourinated compounds and PVC (also known as vinyl) by 2018. (baseline 2014)
Labs and Pharmacy
a. Reduce the toxicity of laboratories by supporting the launch of a Green Labs Initiative
Zero Toxicity through:
a. Assist the LM Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Dept. in its Green Labs Strategy.
b. Reducing the use of materials found on the building materials "Red List" (Living Building Challenge) & "Precautionary List" (PerkinsWill)
c. Increasing the amount of "Green" cleaning
d. Supporting Green Pharmacy practices and a pharmacy “Drug Take Back” campaign
e. Eliminating the use of products with unnecessary mercury content. (ie. thermostats, thermometers, blood pressure (cuff) machines, lighting)
Key Partnership: LMFM, BISS, Pharmcy, Infection Control. External: Work Safe BC, Teleosis Institute