Monday, April 6, 2009

Green Products Causing Infections?

One reason hospitals face a growing problem of infections that spread within the hospital itself: the use of green products. There is something funny about this:

Like many other well-meaning institutions, most hospitals are increasingly using "green" products, which are not as efficient as the traditional ones in combatting bacteria and viruses. The problem has reached such proportions - 70 per cent of Quebec's hospitals now use ecological cleaning products - that the province's Ministry of Health recently felt obliged to issue a warning calling for extra vigilance about the kind of products hospitals use. Typically, those labelled "ecological" are often milder - and thus less prone to kill infectious agents.

"This trend toward green products is not without risk," says Richard Marchand, a microbiologist and member of a government committee that monitors hygiene and safety standards in Quebec's hospitals. He says that, since the industry escapes regulation, some products are diluted by the manufacturer and, once delivered to hospitals, diluted again by infection-control staff eager to save money - just as cheap beauty salons do with hair shampoo. The difference is, while a low-quality shampoo has no other consequence than a bad hairdo, overdiluted cleaning products in hospitals are inactive and can lead to an increase in nosocomial infections such as Clostridium difficile, a superbug that can kill older and weaker patients and attack the immune systems of younger and healthier patients.

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