A group of hospital systems has pledged to reduce purchases of furniture and furnishings treated with antimicrobials and other chemicals as part of a goal supported by Practice Greenhealth and Health Care Without Harm, both headquartered in Reston, Va.

Health care systems that have committed to purchasing furniture and furnishings without toxic chemicals include Advocate Health Care, Downers Grove, Ill.; Beaumont Health System, Royal Oak, Mich.; Hackensack (N.J.) University Medical Center; Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, Calif.; and University Hospitals, Cleveland; according to Practice Greenhealth.

The hospitals pledged that at least 30 percent of the annual volume of their furnishings and furniture purchases do not contain five chemicals and materials identified as potentially harmful by Practice Greenhealth's Healthier Hospitals initiative in its Safer Chemicals Challenge.

The chemicals and potential harm, as described by Healthier Hospitals, include:

  • Flame retardants
  • Formaldehyde
  • Stain- and water-resistant or perfluorinated compounds
  • Polyvinyl chloride
  • Antimicrobials

More chemicals are used in health care than in any other sector, according to Healthier Hospitals. Many chemicals have been shown to have a lasting negative effect on individual health, public health and the environment.

Furnishings and furniture include seating (chairs, stools, sofas, benches), work surfaces (tables, desks), built-in and modular casework, systems (walled desks with seating), beds (including mattresses), storage units (cabinets, filing cabinets, dressers, drawers), shelving (bookshelves, built-in shelves), panels and partitions, cubicle curtains and window coverings.

In October, Kaiser Permanente announced that it had banned the use of 13 antimicrobial chemicals and elements added to fabrics, furniture and finishes in its building projects starting after the announcement. In 2014, Kaiser committed to stop purchasing furniture treated with toxic, flame-retardant chemicals. 

Visit Healthier Hospitals’ website to learn more about its program.