A new study has found that the American health care sector accounts for 8 percent of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions.
The study, conducted by University of Chicago researchers and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, measured how much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases the health care industries (hospitals, scientific research, pharmaceuticals, etc) released. It is the first-of-its-kind calculation of health care’s carbon footprint.
Using the environmental input-output life cycle assessment (EIOLCA) model of environmental impact developed by the Green Design Institute at Carnegie-Mellon University, the researchers were able to determine exactly how much health care activities directly and indirectly affected the environment.
Not surprisingly, hospitals release the largest amount of carbon emissions, mainly due to their high energy needs for temperature control, ventilation and lighting in large and often aging and poorly structured hospital buildings. But interestingly, the second largest contributor of carbon emissions was the pharmaceutical industry, primarily because of associated manufacturing and transportation.
While the researchers realize that hospitals and pharmaceutical companies are more concerned with treating people than the environment, they hope that the results of this study will encourage them to look at ways of providing health care and researching and developing drugs in a more environmentally friendly way.