“There is no separation between environmental issues and health issues” (Smith and Lourie, 2010 a). Researchers from Environment Canada (Muir and Zegarac, 2001) estimate that North American healthcare costs and lost productivity linked to environmental factors total between $568 billion and $793 billion per year ($46 billion and $52 billion for Canada alone). These are staggering numbers and could be easily overlooked when various government budgets are examined as “silos” and the interconnectivity of the environment and health care costs are not considered. They are costs borne both financially and in terms of quality of life.
The greening of healthcare textiles is a topic of great importance for the overall greening of healthcare spaces due to the large number of chemicals used in the production of fabrics. Both patients and healthcare workers are exposed to these chemicals through dermal contact, inhalation, and ingestion. Hospital “green” teams and purchasing agents need to be aware of how to best select textiles for their facilities.
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a comprehensive internationally recognized standard for certification and construction of green buildings (Canada Green Building Council, 2004a). The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) started this program in 1993, and there are currently non-profit green building councils in 77 countries around the world (World Green Building Council, 2010). LEED standards are set for energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, stewardship of resources, and sustainable locations. Innovation and education are also rewarded in the certification process. Verifiable third-party standards are set for practical and measurable design, construction, operation, and maintenance of buildings. Programs are available for commercial and residential buildings and neighbourhoods. The USGBC is currently developing a program specifically for healthcare (US Green Building Council, 2010).
The general principles from LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) (Canada Green Building Council, 2004a) provide the analytical framework for the five criteria for selecting textiles for healthcare use presented in Table 1.