Safer Chemicals

Better indoor air quality for safety and comfort

Green cleaning and purchasing products free of chemicals of concern create a safer environment for our staff and patients.

Green Cleaning

Total cleaners donut chart Green cleaners donut chart

The proportion of green non-disinfectant cleaners relative to total non-disinfectant cleaners purchased by UH increased from 30% to 79% in 2014.

UH increased its spend on green cleaners in four HHI-specified non-disinfectant cleaning categories (bathroom, window, all-purpose and carpet cleaners). This accomplishment has reduced purchasing costs and had a positive impact on indoor air quality in our buildings. Frontline housekeeping staff who clean our buildings and clinical staff at the bedside benefit from the more comfortable working environment created by UH using fewer and safer chemicals. For patients, these practices maximize cleaning effectiveness while enhancing air quality to support an optimal healing environment.

DEHP and PVC Reduction

PVC is a plastic whose production and disposal produces hazardous chemicals, and DEHP is a phthalate plasticizer with potential toxicity – both are used in medical products. We seek to reduce the purchase of medical products containing PVC and DEHP when possible, and aim to participate in moving the marketplace toward innovation in safer alternatives.

PVC and/or DEHP-free Medical product lines, 2014

PVC and/or DEHP-free Medical product lines, 2014

Healthy Interiors

Certain medical and nonmedical furnishings within a health care environment may contain chemicals that pose a threat to human and environmental health, particularly indoor air quality.

University Hospitals’ medical centers have committed to avoiding furnishings containing halogenated flame retardants, formaldehyde, perfluorinated compounds and PVC (vinyl), all of which are associated with a range of adverse health effects. Systemwide furniture purchases free of these chemicals rose from 64 percent in 2013 to 71 percent of total furnishing purchases by the end of 2014.

UH was also among leading health systems nationwide to commit to avoiding the purchase of furniture containing chemical flame retardants, which can be carcinogenic and cause neurodevelopmental toxicity, while still meeting fire safety codes. We hope that these efforts help to transform the national supply chain to provide safer products that contribute to healthier indoor environments. A case study outlining these HHI efforts at UH was published in 2014 by the Practice Greenhealth Healthier Hospitals Initiative and is available as a resource for peers in the health care industry.


Mercury-free purchasing practices and policies keep mercury out of our hospitals to the greatest degree possible. In 2014, comprehensive mercury inventories were taken at each medical center to record any remaining mercury-containing devices and items. Any devices that can be are replaced with nonmercury equivalents and the old material is safely disposed of through our hazardous waste stream. UH further improved its procedures for dealing with this highly toxic and hazardous chemical through the adoption of a standardized systemwide hazardous spill policy with increased safety procedures for our employees in the safe handling of accidental spills. Eight of the major medical centers have been recognized for these efforts in the past three years with Making Medicine Mercury Free environmental awards from Practice Greenhealth.

10 Environmental Excellence awards

UH earned 10 Environmental Excellence awards from Practice Greenhealth, including the prestigious System for Change award. The awards recognize our health system’s achievements in environmental-sustainability programs and improvements during 2015.

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