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Dana-Farber Volunteers for Comprehensive Environmental Audit

Release Date: 09/23/2005
Contact Information:

Contact: David Deegan (deegan.dave@epa.gov), EPA Office of Public Affairs, (617) 918-1017

For Immediate Release: September 23, 2005; Release # dd050908

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is the second hospital in Boston and the sixth in New England to volunteer for a comprehensive environmental audit. The audit is part of a larger effort launched last spring by EPA to help New England hospitals improve compliance with environmental laws.

Under the agreement, Dana-Farber will voluntarily review all its facilities to make sure they comply with all required federal and state environmental regulations, and correct any violations found.

EPA’s decision to focus on the healthcare industry was prompted by concerns that many New England hospitals may not be in full compliance with environmental laws. It also was influenced by the experience of EPA’s New York/New Jersey regional office, which took enforcement actions against several hospitals after significant non-compliance was found during inspections of hospital facilities.

“As a hospital it is our mission to care for the health our patients, but we also have a responsibility to ensure that we provide care and conduct research in a manner that is environmentally sound,” says Hugh Kelleher, vice president of operations at Dana-Farber. “We are looking forward to working with the EPA to assess our efforts to minimize our environmental impact and to verify that we are compliant with state and federal policies.”

Dana-Farber is a principal teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, a federally designated Center for AIDS Research, and a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, a federally designated comprehensive cancer center. Providing advanced training in cancer treatment and research for an international faculty, Dana-Farber conducts community-based programs in cancer prevention, detection and control throughout New England, and maintains joint programs with other Boston institutions affiliated with Harvard Medical School, including Brigham & Women's Hospital, Children's Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital. It employs about 3,000 people supporting more than 150,000 patient visits a year, and is involved in some 200 clinical trials.

Under the agreement, the hospital will do a comprehensive environmental audit within the next 150 days. Dana-Farber agrees to disclose any violations it finds, and to correct those violations within 60 days of discovery. If the hospital uncovers violations that pose a serious threat to human health or the environment, it agrees to correct the problems immediately.

“Dana-Farber has taken active steps to comply with environmental laws,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “We look forward to working with Dana-Farber and other New England hospitals as we embrace this innovative means to achieving compliance.” In a statement in April 2004 sent to more than 250 hospitals in New England, Varney said, “Many hospital functions such as laboratories, power plants, and vehicle maintenance facilities, have the potential to cause environmental violations if not properly managed. I strongly encourage you to identify and correct any such violations.”

Dana-Farber is the sixth health care facility in New England to enter into a voluntary audit agreement. The other hospital in Boston to enter into the agreement is St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, a part of Caritas Christi Health Care, the second largest healthcare system in New England. Caritas Christi agreed earlier this year to undertake a voluntary comprehensive environmental audit and perform audits of 66 facilities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

EPA New England is partnering with 127 New England healthcare facilities through the National Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E) program to achieve mercury and solid waste reductions. For more information regarding H2E, go to: http://www.h2e-online.org/. H2E recognized Dana-Farber in 2004 with the H2E Making Medicine Mercury Free Award to acknowledge its "outstanding efforts to virtually eliminate mercury from the health-care sector" and for – with the other winners – "providing real examples of how hospitals can phase out mercury-containing products while maintaining quality patient care."

Healthcare facilities not only contribute to the economic health of New England but can also pose major environmental and public health concerns. Healthcare facilities are known to contribute to the presence of mercury, dioxin, and other persistent, bioaccumulative toxics in the environment. Nationwide, hospitals generate a wide variety of hazardous waste, and produce 2 million tons of solid waste, which is 1 percent of the total municipal solid waste in the country.

Information on EPA’s audit policy is available through: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/incentives/auditing/index.html .

Information on environmental compliance in Healthcare is available at: http://www.epa.gov/NE/healthcare/ .

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