Health Care Without Harm: a Hippocratic Waste Oath
The medical branch has long operated following the Hippocratic Oath: "First do no harm". People started questioning the context of this promise though, when EPA published initial reports on releases of dioxin, a carcinogen which may also harm reproduction, development and immune system response. Medical incinerators were the number one emissions source for this bad chemical. A review of medical equipment demonstrates yet more baddies. PVC or polyvinylchloride plastics which are troublesome due to the chloride content (the root cause of dioxins in medical inceration) as well as potentially harmful plasticizers (the chemicals used to make plastics have the desired properties of flexibility and formability). Mercury in medical equipment is often given exemptions from regulations, such as the European ROHS law, because the risks of the heavy metal are offset by the supposed health benefits of higher tech medical equipment--even when suppliers secretly know that better alternatives are available if only a mechanism existed to drive the market in that direction.
Enter HCWH, Health Care Without Harm. Health Care Without Harm takes the Hippocratic Oath seriously, extending it to every aspect of medical services.
Projects under the banner of No Harm include organic and local hospital food, green hospital construction and green purchasing. The disappearance of mercury thermometers from hospitals, clinics and pharmacies throughout the USA is attributed to efforts by Health Care Without Harm. And medical incinerators have been largely phased out, by a combination of regulatory and No Harm initiatives.
Health Care Without Harm is a model for effective activism: start by following the money. By convincing the purchasers and users of medical equipment and facilities to opt for change, HCWH has achieved great successes. Which raises a very good question: what if all of us committed to a "consumer's hippocratic oath". First, do no harm.