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 approximately 32 million inpatients, 83 million outpatients, and 108 million emergency room patients annually. Thus, a large number of individuals, some of whom are especially vulnerable to the toxic effects of pesticides, may be exposed to them in health care settings. In keeping with the medical profession's basic tenet of "first, do no harm," hospitals and other health care settings have a special obligation to demonstrate leadership in instituting effective and safer pest management 

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. IPM's focus in hospital buildings is the prevention of pest problems by reducing or eliminating sources of pest food, water, and shelter. On facility grounds, this can be achieved 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, or 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 being implemented successfully at schools, parks, government facilities, and hospitals nationwide. For example, IPM programs at Oregon Health and Sciences University (Portland), Brigham and Women's Hospital (Boston), Harvard University (Cambridge), the City of San Francisco, the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department, New York City public schools, and the federal 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, and the 1995 reports, A Failure to Protect, by Beyond Pesticides, and the New York State Attorney General's report, Pest Management in New York State Hospitals: Risk Reduction and Health Promotion, add 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.