Excess ozone and other air pollutants have a growing financial impact in many ways, not only on human health. Aside from the direct healthcare costs associated with climate pollution, air pollution places a significant burden on public and commercial health insurers. In addition, many hospitals struggle with their budgets, resulting in the use of low-cost, low-quality air filters. The impact is poor hospital air quality which is dangerous for patients and hospital staff.
The Most Serious Obstacles to Hospital Air Quality
While the entire world faces pollution issues, hospitals have an even more significant challenge due to the impacts on both safety and costs. Some of the obstacles they face are:
Hospitals must spend more money on solutions to combat air quality because they have more pollution concerns than other confined areas.
Hospital staff and patients are factors in air quality for hospitals.
Because of the nature of hospitals, they are more often than not crowded with patients suffering from various diseases that may emit contaminants that are infectious.
According to a Healthline article, a study published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics, conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discovered that cough and sneeze nuclei can travel up to 200 times farther than previously thought.
- Cough and sneeze nuclei 100 micrometers in diameter can travel up to five times farther than previously estimated.
- Cough and sneeze nuclei less than 50 micrometers can remain airborne long enough to reach ceiling ventilation units.
- Cough and sneeze nuclei 10 micrometers in diameter can travel up to 200 times farther.
The study showed how airborne contaminants in a hospital setting might degrade air quality and contribute to infectious epidemics.
The study’s author, Lydia Bourouiba, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT, stated: “This can all help target and improve mitigations strategies such as spacing between patients in hospitals, air ventilation and filtration in confined spaces.”
However, for medical professionals to adopt an efficient strategy to improve hospital air quality, there must be adequate resources, which impacts budgets that may already be stretched thin.
The Impact of Budgeting on Hospital Air Quality
While there are no proposed budget cuts in 2022 for Medicaid program reimbursements, hospitals have faced cuts in recent years that some facilities are still trying to recover from in terms of services and quality of care.
Although this may seem unrelated to hospital air quality, budget constraints are driving many health care administrators to utilize low-cost, low-quality air filters incapable of eliminating harmful air particulates that affect the health of patients and staff. Furthermore, many hospitals are overwhelmed by the amount of money they must spend on patients hospitalized with respiratory ailments caused by air pollution.
However, according to a research study published on the Rand Corporation website, Medicare and hospitals can reduce their expenses on acute care if they concentrate on lowering air pollution levels.
Health Costs of Pollution and Climate Change
While skeptics sometimes claim that addressing the costs of pollution would be prohibitively expensive, research shows that the cost of inactivity means spending much more than $820 billion in healthcare expenses each year from air pollution from fossil fuels and climate change. These consequences are associated with high costs of early deaths, hospitalizations, mental health issues, lost income, missed work, and other health-related issues.
Sadly, the burden is heaviest on disadvantaged communities; however, it impacts the entire United States. Additionally, research shows the severe impacts of climate change and the high financial costs and costs to health will continue to grow every year if we do not reduce pollution. Our nation has a choice to make. We can continue as we have, disregarding the need for action with both financial and health costs increasing, or we can take action to protect our world by working towards creating cost-effective solutions to protect millions of people in the US.
Pollution From Soot
The combustion of fossil fuels emits tiny particles of soot pollution into the atmosphere. Breathing in such air pollution causes cardiovascular illness and respiratory disorders, and it is estimated that it causes around 107,000 early deaths per year. The total yearly healthcare expenses (in 2020) are $820 billion.
Pollution From Ozone
Emissions from fossil fuel combustion and greater temperatures caused by climate change contribute to ozone pollution. Ozone pollution can harm individuals with asthma and impact the cardiovascular, metabolic, nervous, and reproductive systems. The total yearly healthcare expenses are $7.9 billion.
Rising temperatures and carbon dioxide can intensify the pollen season. In 2010, it was projected that oak pollen caused approximately 21,200 visits to healthcare providers related to asthma. The total yearly healthcare expenses are $11.4 million.
Vector-borne Transmitted Diseases
Warmer temperatures caused by climate change expand the range of mosquitoes and ticks carrying the West Nile Virus and Lyme disease. The impact is hundreds of thousands of new cases each year and tens of thousands of trips to healthcare providers. Total yearly healthcare expenses range from $860 million to $2.7 billion.
Events in Climate and Weather
Climate change causes greater temperatures and more intensive heat waves. The effects are heat stress, heatstroke, and exacerbating various cardiovascular illnesses, resulting in fatalities and increased visits to hospitals and emergency rooms. The total yearly healthcare expenses are $263 million.
Rising temperatures, drought conditions, and insect outbreaks associated with climate change are expected to cause an increase in wildfire intensity and frequency. Recently, exposure to wildfire smoke resulted in 6,200 visits to the hospital for respiratory health issues and 1,700 fatalities related to PM2.5. The total yearly healthcare expenses are $16 billion.
The impact on our climate has caused an increase in weather-related incidents such as hurricanes. One such example is the 2012 hurricane Sandy, which tragically claimed the lives of 273 people and resulted in over 12,000 hospitalizations, ER visits, and outpatient care. The total cost of health care is $3.3 billion.
Decreasing Hospital Air Pollution
Health professionals may try to minimize carbon dioxide emissions, promote climate adaptation and resilience, and incorporate climate change into healthcare and public health practices. Additionally, changing hospital operations can help to reduce hospital pollution at the source while also increasing efficiency. By evaluating and improving work practices, hospitals can reduce emissions and operational costs to help protect their staff and the public. Examples of work practice changes to help reduce pollution and improve hospital air quality include:
- Locating and replacing sources of Mercury
- Using PVC free products
- Using proper MERV rated air filtration
- Lobbying for Pollution Prevention
Improving the Air we Breathe One Filter at a Time
The health and safety of our nation is at significant risk if we do not reduce pollution. That’s why Filti is committed to helping improve air quality. Filti manufactures nanofiber filtration products for both home and commercial use. Our high-quality filters capture dangerous air particulates, making it easier for hospitals to keep their patients safe and improving hospital air quality. Contact Filti today to learn how we can help you improve your hospital’s air quality. Together, we can make a difference!