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August 2, 2019

Reducing Pollution From the Health Care Industry

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Anesthesiology, School of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
  • 2Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
  • 3Department of Surgery, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  • 4Langone Health, Wagner School of Public Service, New York University, New York, New York
  • 5Tandon School of Engineering, New York University, New York, New York
JAMA. 2019;322(11):1043-1044. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.10823

Pollution is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality, and was associated with an estimated 9 million premature deaths globally in 2015 or 16% of all deaths.1 Most environmentally mediated deaths are linked to air pollution,1 with many health experts believing climate change is the leading public health issue of the 21st century. Major disruptions to food production, water supplies, and coastal livability are predicted unless significant action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.2 Ironically, modern health care is a major contributor to pollution that adversely affects human health.3-6 It is estimated that the health sectors of the United States,3 Australia,4 England,5 and Canada6 emit a combined 748 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents annually. If the health sectors of these countries were an independent nation, they would rank seventh in the world for GHG emissions.7

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