Baltimore, Md. – The Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, the Aaron and Lillie Straus Foundation and the Clayton Baker Trust recently pledged a total of $400,000 to support the “Maryland Initiative: Hospitals for a Healthy Environment,” a grant to develop and implement a statewide initiative to decrease environmental health risks associated with health care delivery in Maryland. The goal of the project is to improve the quality of the state's health care delivery system by decreasing the toxic chemicals that are purchased, utilized and disposed of in the process of providing health care.
According to the Center for Disease Control's 2003 release, Human Exposure Report , our most sensitive populations – children and women of childbearing age – have higher body levels of mercury, pesticides and other chemicals harmful to human health and the environment. Many of these chemicals are ever-present in the health care setting.
“There are measurable amounts of dioxins, pesticides, solvents, heavy metals such as lead and mercury, and other potentially toxic chemicals in all of our bodies,” says Barbara Sattler, DrPH, RN, FAAN, research associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing and director of the School of Nursing's Environmental Health Education Center. “Once inside our bodies, there is no effective way for us to rid them, so we must focus on preventing these substances from getting into our bodies in the first place.”
“Hospitals for a Healthy Environment” addresses the need to improve practices, policies and purchasing decisions within the health care delivery sector in order to reduce and eliminate the associated environmental risks. The Maryland Hospital Association, the Maryland Nurses Association, the Maryland Department of the Environment, and the Health Care Without Harm Campaign are partnering with the School of Nursing's Environmental Health Education Center, which staffs nursing-related activities within the national Health Care Without Harm Campaign.
Building on work already planned in the state of Maryland, this collaboration seeks to educate the Maryland health care industry about the links between environmental toxins and human health; motivate and assist the health care industry in making necessary changes for cleaning up Maryland health institutions; shift the market in favor of alternative medical waste treatment technologies and products; and work with health care professionals to engage new sectors of the community in becoming advocates for environmental health and justice in the larger society.
The University of Maryland Baltimore Foundation, Inc., on behalf of the University of Maryland School of Nursing, administers funds for this initiative.