Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Home | Support RFF | Join E-mail List | Contact
RFF Logo
Skip navigation links
RESEARCH TOPICS
CENTERS
PUBLICATIONS
NEWS
EVENTS
RESEARCHERS
ABOUT RFF
 

 

 
Join E-mail List
Please provide your e-mail address to receive periodic newsletters and invitations to public events
 
 
Environmental Implications of the Health Care Service Sector
J. Clarence Davies, Adam Lowe
RFF Discussion Paper 00-01 | October 1999
RESEARCH TOPICS:
Abstract

This report analyzes the environmental effects associated with activities undertaken and influenced by the health care service sector. It is one part of a larger study to better understand the environmental effects of service sector activities and the implications for management strategies. Considerable analysis has documented the service sector's contribution to domestic economic conditions, yet little analysis has been performed on the broad impacts service firms have on environmental quality.

For this study the authors developed a framework to examine the nature of service sector industries' influence on environmental quality. Three primary types of influence were identified: direct impacts, upstream impacts, and downstream impacts. In addition, indirect impacts induced by service sector activities include their influence over settlement patterns and indirect influences over other sectors of the economy. In their initial analysis, the authors noted that many functions performed in the service sector also are commonly found in other sectors. The impacts of these activities have been analyzed separately from those unique to the health care sector, as they present different challenges.

Health care is one of the largest U.S. industries, employing one in nine workers and costing one in seven dollars generated in the economy. Functions performed in the industry that are common in other sectors include: transportation; laundry; food services; facility cleaning; heating and cooling; and photographic processing. Activities unique to the health care industry include: infectious waste generation and disposal; medical waste incineration; equipment sterilization; dental fillings; ritual mercury usage; x-ray diagnosis; nuclear medicine; pharmaceutical usage and disposal; and drinking water fluoridation. The industry has considerable leverage upstream on its suppliers, which is important to managing risks from the use of goods commonly used in the industry, including: mercury-containing products, polyvinyl chloride plastics, latex gloves, and syringe needles.

The authors identified a number of areas for potential environmental management initiatives: controlling emissions from on-site "production" type functions; mercury use; the environmental consequences of infection control measures; pollution prevention through substitution of alternative health care services; and research and data collection.

RFF Home | RFF Press: An Imprint of Routledge Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Copyright Notice
1616 P St. NW, Washington, DC 20036 ยท 202.328.5000 Feedback | Contact Us