Health Care Electronic Guidance

The Center for Environmental Health works with major health care systems to improve their purchasing and management of IT products. The following guidance document describes steps health care can take to reduce the environmental impact of their IT equipment. If your health care organization is interested in making the commitment to the practices described below, or would like more information, please contact Sue Chiang at CEH at sue@ceh.org.

Health Care’s Guidance Document for: Environmentally Preferable Information Technology (IT) Products

Electronic products are an essential component of modern health care, increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of delivering high quality health care in the U.S. and abroad. Yet across their life cycle — from resource extraction, to manufacturing, to use, to disposal — electronic products have the potential to adversely affect human and environmental health.  Electronic products contain chemicals of concern, consume energy throughout their useful life and pose disposal problems at the end of their life, especially for workers in developing countries.

As a responsible provider of health care services, we are committed to the health of our patients, our staff and the local and global community. In recognition of health care’s increasing demand for and use of electronic equipment and our mission to promote health, we are addressing the environmental concerns of electronic products across their life cycle. 

The following activities reflect ways that we will strive to achieve goals for purchasing environmentally sound information technology equipment:

Purchase Environmentally Preferable Electronic Products: This will include purchasing:

  • Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT)-registered products. EPEAT-registered products address many of the core life cycle concerns of certain electronic products. Our preference is to purchase EPEAT silver or gold products whenever feasible, with EPEAT bronze as our baseline goal.
  • Energy Efficient Products. Energy efficient products are more cost-effective and reduce our carbon footprint. We will prefer more energy efficient electronic products, including those that are Energy Star-qualified .
  • Halogen-Free Products. Organo-halogenated compounds (those that contain at least one halogen: fluorine, chlorine, bromine or iodine, bonded to carbon) tend to be persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic or breakdown through combustion, metabolism or degradation into chemicals that have these characteristics, including dioxins and furans. Many organo-halogenated chemicals are targeted for international phase-out under the Stockholm Convention . Many manufacturers of electronic products are already moving away from organo-halogens. We will support this transition by preferring halogen-free products, with an initial priority focused on Chlorine and Bromine.
  • Products from manufacturers with takeback programs. Manufacturer takeback programs are an important component of Product Stewardship, creating a financial incentive for companies to redesign products so they are less toxic and easier to recycle. We will prefer manufacturers that offer product and packaging takeback programs.

Promote the Responsible Use of Electronic Products: Electronic products utilize large amounts of materials and energy during the manufacturing process. Typical IT equipment, for example, actually uses more energy during manufacturing than during use because of the complexity of the manufacturing processes.  In addition, electronic products utilize significant energy during use and often waste energy when not in use.  We will strive to extend the lifespan of our electronic products and explore ways to reduce their consumption of energy including options such as power management and energy efficiency technologies.

Ensure proper disposal of electronic products. Electronic products contain many toxic chemicals and materials of concern including mercury, lead, polyvinyl chloride and brominated flame retardants. Therefore it is essential that electronic products are properly disposed of at the end of their useful life. As noted above, one strategy is to support product stewardship through manufacturer takeback programs.  We will strive to develop responsible recycling programs with a preference for recyclers who meet leading certifications such as e-Stewards

Raise supplier awareness by communicating to vendors our preference for the most environmentally preferable electronic products. It is especially important that vendors develop products that have longer life spans and are upgradeable, as well as meet the environmental purchasing criteria listed above. We will communicate and promote the goal to procure safer and environmentally preferable chemicals, products and technologies through requests for information, requests for proposals and other product and purchasing procedures.