Restrictions of hazardous substances.
Hazardous substances (Health aspects)
Hazardous substances (Research)
|Publication:||Name: CANNT Journal Publisher: Canadian Association of Nephrology Nurses & Technologists Audience: Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 Canadian Association of Nephrology Nurses & Technologists ISSN: 1498-5136|
|Issue:||Date: Jan-March, 2011 Source Volume: 21 Source Issue: 1|
|Topic:||Event Code: 310 Science & research|
|Geographic:||Geographic Scope: Canada Geographic Code: 1CANA Canada|
Dear Green Tech:
I was out shopping for a new washer and dryer the other day. One of the key selling points for me was to ensure that they were Energy Star rated. Do you know of any other designations I should look for when purchasing electronic devices and are there any Energy Star-rated medical devices?
Sincerely, Considerate Kilowatt from Kitchener
The dawn of technology is here to stay, and what an exciting and cool time it is. We see new technology emerging every minute, and it brings with it new advancements in medical devices. As with all new gizmos and gadgets we produce and purchase, at the same time mountains of toxic and obsolete equipment pile up every year. Environment Canada estimates that more than 140,000 tons of e-waste are sent to landfills annually.
As new technology emerges, so do new ideas. Programs such as Energy Star, Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) programs are just a few we see today. Programs that will hopefully help change the face of electronics.
First off, good on you for purchasing an Energy Star appliance, as it's not only good for the environment, it's also good for the pocket book every month. The Energy Star program began in the early 1990s by the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States, as a way of trying to improve on energy efficiency and reduce energy usage and greenhouse gas production. The program has been adopted by numerous governments across the globe, Canada being one of them.
The program has more than 40,000 items listed; everything from appliances to lighting and even homes but, unfortunately, not medical devices--well, not yet. The need is there for all medical devices to have a rating under the program. Device manufacturers big and small need to take a new look at their equipment designs and create more efficient models, which, in turn, would provide a new and unique selling feature that some customers are sure to like. Welch Allyn is only one of 14 medical device manufacturers to become an Energy Star partner with the certification of its new Green series exam light. Without a category specific to medical devices and benchmarking values, this list may take time to grow. But in the mean time, you can push your hospital in that direction by getting it Energy Star certified.
Secondly, look and make sure that whatever electronic devices you are purchasing for either your unit or at home are RoHS compliant. The RoHS directive, which began in 2006, restricts the use of certain harmful susbstances in the manufacturing of electronic goods. These include the following: lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyl (PBB), and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE). All of these items have been linked to some adverse health effects on humans or wildlife. Lead and mercury causes neurological disorders, cadmium causes kidney failure, brominated flame retardants and hexavalent chromium are known carcinogens, so more the reason not to use any of these substances in making your iPod.
The RoHS regulations apply to various product categories, such as office equipment, information technology (IT) and telecommunications equipment, household appliances, consumer equipment, electrical and electronic tools and more. The only current category exceptions within the RoHS program are medical devices and control instrumentation--the reason being that they are manufactured in small quantities, have a relatively long product life, and are often used in critical situations, e.g., saving lives. This was also done to facilitate further research and development (R&D) into new alternative and less toxic substances and overall functional testing. It is not likely that manufacturers will be adopting the RoHS rules at least until 2012 and quite possibly 2018.
Now that does not mean that you can let companies off the hook. Ask them if they are looking at RoHS compliance and when they hope to adopt the rules. We, in North America, always seem to be a bit slow to react to the elimination of toxic elements found in our everyday consumer goods. The European Union (EU) definitely seems to be leading the push on this front with their RoHS and Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical substances (REACH) programs. But I must say I am quite proud of some of the recent groundwork being done here in Canada with regards to BPA and phthalates (but that is for another talk).
Along with the RoHS program, the closely linked WEEE directive acts to properly and ethically dispose of waste electronics through national recycling programs. In Canada, the role of dealing with e-waste has been delegated to the province. Now not all provinces have provincially run programs, so you may need to inquire as to whether or not your province does. Currently, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Nova Scotia have programs. Here in Ontario, the Ontario Electronic Stewardship (OES) program has deals with all matters relating to e-waste. They have contracted out licences to certain companies to process the e-waste and others to provide collection locations. The great thing about this program these days is that there is no cost for anyone disposing of old electronics, and that goes for hospitals. The reason is to help in end-user compliance.
The OES program will look at keeping elements out of the environment and recovering precious metals and hazardous compounds like mercury and lead. On one hand you can save money shipping off your junk for free, while on another you can recycle much of that junk--things like motors, wire, etc., and make money. Well, I will let that little carrot dangle for a little while. I can't give up all of my trade secrets all at once.
Bottom line is that we have a long way to go with medical devices and their move towards using greener electronics, as compared to that of newer consumer-based electronics. Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Phillips are just a handful of the companies now making the move towards green electronics.
To know just what electronics to buy, refer to Green Electronics (www.greenelectronics.com), browse through their list of certified products so you can "buy it right the first time."
So, just one last thing, do a little something for Earth Day this year (Friday, April 22, 2011) and bring all of your unused, unwanted and non-functioning electronics to an e-waste drop-off near you. Every little bit counts when we are greening the future for our kids.
For any and all questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Rejean Quesnelle, AScT Renal Technologist, Halton Healthcare Services, Oakville, ON
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