(Beyond Pesticides, November 12, 2003)
A first-of-its-kind survey of top U.S. hospitals finds that many major hospitals are regularly spraying toxic pesticides, unnecessarily risking the health of patients, staff and visitors. The survey results are detailed in a new report, Healthy Hospitals: Controlling Pests Without Harmful Pesticides.
The report, released today by health advocate groups Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) and Beyond Pesticides, offers tips and resources for how hospitals can manage pests while also protecting the health of people and the environment. It is available here and on the Health Care Without Harm website.
“Hospitals are intended to be places of healing, yet many are using hazardous pesticides unnecessarily in a ‘spray and pray’ approach to pest management, when safer and more effective methods are available,” said Ann McCampbell, M.D., of HCWH.
“Obviously patients and staff should be protected from pests, but they also need to be protected from pesticides,” said Ted Schettler, M.D., a practicing physician in Boston and science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network.
“Pesticides can cause an array of health problems, particularly in developing children, people with asthma, chemical sensitivities or with compromised immune systems. Some pesticides being used on hospital grounds are linked to cancer and birth defects, as well as neurological and reproductive disorders,” Dr. Schettler said. “Alternative approaches that reduce or eliminate exposures can and should be used.”
The survey also offered good news: Some hospitals are having great success managing pests with no or very few hazardous pesticides by using proven, safer Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques.
A good IPM program includes reducing pests’ sources of food, water and shelter; proper maintenance of buildings, lawns and landscapes; using a least-hazardous pesticide only when other options have failed; and notifying patients and staff of any pesticide use.
“There is an urgent need for more hospitals to protect people’s health by using safer pest management practices, in keeping with the medical profession’s commitment to ‘First, do no harm.'” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “Our report gives hospitals all the necessary tools to implement a successful IPM program.”