PhD student, Northeastern University
Analyze the environmental "hot-spots" in the health care sector to achieve sustainable development
The objective of the health care sector is to ensure good health and well-being of the society. However, the activities in the various segments of the sector, such as the operation of hospitals, pharmaceutical industry etc. may result in direct and indirect environmental impacts leading to health effects among people. The life cycle assessment (LCA) approach at analyzing the sustainability of a product or a service holistically examines the environmental and human health impacts with categories such as global warming potential, human toxicity and eco-toxicity. A LCA requires detailed understanding of the inventories used at various stages in the life cycle of a product. These inventories are very scarce for pharmaceutical drugs production because this is often proprietary information. In my research, I am working to make these inventories available to LCA practitioners based on data available in open literature such as patents. My work explores methods to convert the production information available in open literature in to usable life cycle inventory data. This LCI data will help to quantify the direct and indirect impacts of the pharmaceutical drugs on the environment and human health hence enabling the industry and policy makers to take necessary action to reduce or eliminate these impacts.
Abstract: The healthcare sector is a driver of economic growth in the U.S., with spending on healthcare in 2012 reaching $2.8 trillion, or 17% of the U.S. gross domestic product, but it is also a significant source of emissions that adversely impact environmental and public health. The current state of the healthcare industry offers significant opportunities for environmental efficiency improvements, potentially leading to reductions in costs, resource use, and waste without compromising patient care. However, limited research exists that can provide quantitative, sustainable solutions. The operating room is the most resource-intensive area of a hospital, and surgery is therefore an important focal point to understand healthcare-related emissions. Hybrid life cycle assessment (LCA) was used to quantify environmental emissions from four different surgical approaches (abdominal, vaginal, laparoscopic, and robotic) used in the second most common major procedure for women in the U.S., the hysterectomy. Data were collected from 62 cases of hysterectomy. Life cycle assessment results show that major sources of environmental emissions include the production of disposable materials and single-use surgical devices, energy used for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, and anesthetic gases. By scientifically evaluating emissions, the healthcare industry can strategically optimize its transition to a more sustainable system.
Pub.: 18 Dec '14, Pinned: 30 Jun '17
Abstract: The U.S. health care sector is highly interconnected with industrial activities that emit much of the nation's pollution to air, water, and soils. We estimate emissions directly and indirectly attributable to the health care sector, and potential harmful effects on public health. Negative environmental and public health outcomes were estimated through economic input-output life cycle assessment (EIOLCA) modeling using National Health Expenditures (NHE) for the decade 2003-2013 and compared to national totals. In 2013, the health care sector was also responsible for significant fractions of national air pollution emissions and impacts, including acid rain (12%), greenhouse gas emissions (10%), smog formation (10%) criteria air pollutants (9%), stratospheric ozone depletion (1%), and carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic air toxics (1-2%). The largest contributors to impacts are discussed from both the supply side (EIOLCA economic sectors) and demand side (NHE categories), as are trends over the study period. Health damages from these pollutants are estimated at 470,000 DALYs lost from pollution-related disease, or 405,000 DALYs when adjusted for recent shifts in power generation sector emissions. These indirect health burdens are commensurate with the 44,000-98,000 people who die in hospitals each year in the U.S. as a result of preventable medical errors, but are currently not attributed to our health system. Concerted efforts to improve environmental performance of health care could reduce expenditures directly through waste reduction and energy savings, and indirectly through reducing pollution burden on public health, and ought to be included in efforts to improve health care quality and safety.
Pub.: 10 Jun '16, Pinned: 30 Jun '17