Many industries are making huge strides in their efforts to go green. More and more restaurants no longer automatically provide plastic straws. Many stores no longer provide plastic bags or at least encourage the use of reusable ones. New construction often builds in more energy-saving features.
But one industry is lacking in their efforts to be more environmentally-friendly: healthcare.
According to a new study published in JAMA Network Open, very few large healthcare organizations – just 12% – even publish a sustainability report, while 78% of Fortune 500 companies and 82% of S&P 500 corporations do.
The health care delivery sector lags behind other US economic sectors in sustainability reporting. Publicly reporting sustainability activities would provide HCOs with an incentive to quantify and reduce their environmental impacts, lower costs, and protect human health.
The 49 large US health care organizations studied for the JAMA report represent both for-profit and not-for-profit institutions. Despite their being amongst the largest corporations in the US and growing as the fastest economic sector, little is reported about the 7,000 tons of hospital waste generated daily or what the plans are to reduce these volumes.
This waste translates into 10% of our greenhouse emissions, 12% of acid rain, 10% of smog, and 9% of air pollutants. According to the study, this is a huge contributor to the 44,000-98,000 preventable hospital deaths each year.
Clearly, there’s a lot of room for improvement.
Meantime, there are plenty of independent healthcare providers who have already made a commitment to greener practices and act on that commitment every day. One group that has paved the way? Mercury-free, mercury-safe dentists.
Mercury-free dentistry simply means that the dentist doesn’t place mercury amalgam fillings, instead choosing alternatives such as composite resins, glass ionomer, and ceramic/porcelain. They may do so out of environmental concerns, patient demand, or concern about the neurotoxin’s impact on the health of their patients and staff – or even a combination of all three.
Mercury-safe practices take it to the next level. Not only is amalgam shunned as a material for filling teeth. A mercury-safe dentist takes extra precautions when removing amalgam so that neither the patients nor dental team is exposed to harmful mercury vapor and particulate, and so waste amalgam doesn’t enter the water supply or go out with the trash.
And those are just two of the ways this toxin can make its way into our environment:
You can learn more about our own safety procedures here.
Every day, more dentists are making the switch to mercury-free dentistry. In Europe, dentists can no longer place amalgam fillings in kids, pregnant women, and nursing mothers towards the goal of an eventual total ban on the material. A growing number of individual nations are following suit.
We hope the US will soon see the light and make good on its promise to at least work toward the phase-down of dental mercury that the Minamata Convention requires.
For the tides are turning. The future is mercury-free.