By Barbara Polivka, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor and Shirley B. Powers Endowed Chair in Nursing Research, University of Louisville, Kentucky
“… the symptoms or the sufferings generally considered to be inevitable and incident to the disease are very often not symptoms of the disease at all, but of something quite different—of the want of fresh air, or of light, or of warmth, or of quiet, or of cleanliness…” -Florence Nightingale, Notes on Nursing: What it is and What it is Not (1859).
As we celebrate the 46th Earth Day, it’s good to look back.
- Earth Day was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in on April 22nd, 1970.
- The first Earth Day celebration helped spur the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act.
- Earth Day became an international celebration in 1971 when the UN Secretary General talked about it at a Peace Bell Ceremony in New York City.
A time to think about how we affect the environment and are affected by the environment.
Health Care Without Harm (https://noharm.org/) is an international organization promoting environmental health and justice. If you aren’t familiar with Health Care Without Harm I urge you to go to their website to see how health care organizations are decreasing their environmental impact. Health care facilities are:
- eliminating medical devices containing mercury and using safer non-mercury alternatives.
- eliminating medical devices containing phthalate PVC such as IV bags and tubing, which can affect the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive organs, and switching to safer plastics.
- reducing pesticides and choosing nontoxic integrated pest management techniques.
What can nurses do?
Advocating to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals and materials in our workplaces is certainly a great place to start. We can also choose safer products to use in our own homes. The Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families website (http://saferchemicals.org) provides a wealth of information about how to eliminate toxic chemical exposures. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched a Safer Choice certification. Products meeting the Safer Choice standard cannot contain chemicals known to be carcinogens, reproductive toxins, or neurological toxins. The Safer Choice label pictured here easily identifies these products. A list of over 2,000 products is available at https://www.epa.gov/saferchoice. Using certified Safer Choice products is safer for you and your family, and for the environment.
Happy Earth Day!