Hospitals face many challenges, none more important than maintaining a safe and sanitary environment for patients who have entrusted them with their health.
Administrators are aware of this, and no doubt take it seriously. Most facilities spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on cleaning products and services to create the most germ-resistant environments possible. In spite of this, however, approximately four million patients in the EU and 1.7 million in the US still contract healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) annually.
Meanwhile, the toxic chemicals used to disinfect hospitals bring about other issues. Small quantities of chemical compounds from cleaning products can find their way into rivers, lakes, and oceans even after passing through water treatment plants. Approximately 10 million tons (over 21 billion pounds) of toxic chemicals are released into our environment by industries each year.
This is to say nothing of the threats to worker safety upon repeated exposure to such concentrated cleaning products.
Taken together, this means that the typical hospital, already beset by countless challenges, is attempting to clean and disinfect its patient quarters using solutions that do not effectively address HAIs and worse yet, pose additional hazards to the vulnerable population it seeks to serve.
Luckily, the green market for addressing these problems with eco-friendly and more effective solutions is growing quickly.
Let’s take a look at why it is crucial to explore sustainable alternatives and how green solutions can help ensure cleaner hospitals and healthier environments.
Stronger chemicals ≠ cleaner hospitals
It is said that what does not kill you makes you stronger. With people, this is seen as hopeful progress, but unfortunately, the statement also applies to bacteria and viruses. When you attempt to kill a pathogen with an inadequate chemical disinfectant, the pathogen mutates in order to develop resistance against said disinfectant. This is the equivalent of bringing a knife to a gunfight.
Pathogen mutation has resulted in the creation of superbugs, which are considered one of the greatest and least understood threats to humankind in the coming decades, according to the World Health Organization. Traditional cleaning products are not getting the job done when it comes to winning the fight against these superbugs. Around the world, more than 1.2 million people lose their lives every year from hospital-acquired infections.
As noted above, toxic chemicals also pose a severe threat to the health of the hospital cleaning staff. One study highlights that the lung function of people who spend their career in cleaning roles bears the same impact as someone who has smoked 20 cigarettes a day for 10 to 20 years. Hospital housekeeping employees also suffer from irritation of the eyes, throat, or nose, dizziness, allergic reactions, and skin issues.
There is a better way, and it is green
The good news is that as consumer awareness about green cleaning products is growing, the industry is thriving – expected to reach $11.6 billion by 2029. This means that there are more eco-warrior, tech-savvy startups creating better products for hospitals and other industries.
For instance, at Viking Pure, we have found an answer in nature’s most powerful disinfectant, Hypochlorous Acid (HOCl). This natural solution is something that our bodies produce to fight and destroy invading pathogens. It is 80 to 100 times more effective against bacteria, fungi, viruses, and superbugs than bleach.
Although scientists have known about HOCI for nearly a century, it has not been widely used in the disinfectant industry since its shelf life span is as short as 30 days. Our technology eliminates that concern. We have designed a generator to be installed at healthcare facilities which produces unlimited quantities of a non-toxic HOCl disinfectant and a multi-purpose cleaner/degreaser. With this system, the cleaning staff does not have to be concerned about shelf life or the availability of solutions due to supply chain considerations or market demand.
The Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency states that disinfectants can damage the surfaces of medical devices if they are not suitable to the surface material. Take bleach as an example: It is highly corrosive and reactive with metal and causes oxidation by the trading of electrons between the metal and the bleach molecules.
Using Viking Pure’s non-corrosive cleaning solutions mitigates this concern and protects expensive equipment.
What are the other benefits of green cleaning products?
Since hospitals use more powerful chemicals than we do at home, they cannot just throw them away in a regular dumpster. They have different waste management protocols, which are vital but not time or cost-efficient. Viking Pure aims to make this a thing of the past by reusing containers.
One hospital where we recently installed our machine determined they were going to save $50,000 per year simply on the cardboard packaging that otherwise would have ended up in a dumpster.
Let’s not forget that single-use plastic has a huge impact on the ecosystem. We cannot expect to have a healthy planet when there are eight million pieces of plastic that find their way into our oceans every day. Sustainable packaging provides an opportunity for hospitals to minimize their plastic consumption and become part of the change.
The bottom line is that the number of people afflicted with healthcare-acquired infections is proof that hospitals need to reconsider the cleaning products they have been using.
Partnering with green cleaning innovators such as Viking Pure can help healthcare facilities become a model for institutions everywhere, serving the sick, protecting the vulnerable, and helping the planet we all call home.
This article was authored by Joshua Schwartz, President and Co-founder at Viking Pure Solutions, a natural cleaning and disinfecting solutions company.
Disclosure: This article mentions a client of an Espacio portfolio company.