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Meet the #EWWRAwards finalists: IMQ Zorrotzaurre on preventing hazardous chemicals in healthcare

The EWWR Awards finalists have been announced! In each category, the Jury has selected their top 3 finalists. The winners will be revealed on 15 May in Brussels during the EWWR Awards Ceremony. In the days and weeks to come, we will introduce you the finalists one by one. Today, we would like you to present you the initiative undertaken by the IMQ Zorrotzaurre Clinic in the Basque Country in Spain to address the use of chemicals in healthcare establishments. This action is a finalist in the Business/Industry category.

What did your action consist of?

This project Emerging Pollutants arose out of an increased concern about the substances used in medicine shared by both the healthcare and the environmental sectors.

Our project was to develop a methodology that has allowed us to identify the Emerging Contaminants present in our healthcare activities. Together with a team of environmental experts, we have analysed the impact of
34 chemical products used in four medical areas—endoscopy, sterilisation, maintenance and cleaning – in order to identify their chemical components and to prioritise them based on several defined factors.

This project has helped us identify a series of substances that we would like to substitute in the future when their health and environmental impacts are verified and suitable alternatives are found on the
market. Through this chemical substitution, we would like to maintain a balance between our impact on the environment, the health of our workers and the provision of healthcare services to our patients.

How did you come up with the idea?

At the IMQ Zorrotzaurre Clinic and the regional health and public authorities, we were concerned that the discharge of substances commonly used in healthcare in bodies of water could pose a health
and environmental threat, particularly since these substances and their impact have not been researched enough. Currently, traces of such chemicals can be found in wastewater, rivers and other surface and underground streams, where not only aquatic life can be affected, but also humans can themselves be exposed to them through drinking water or the food chain.

Why is waste reduction important for you and your organization?

The excessive generation of waste and its incorrect separation has a great impact not only on the environment, but also on public health. Being committed to environmental conservation, the IMQ Clinics have for many years undertaken activities to preserve energy,streamline material and resource consumption, recycle and separate waste and to raise awareness about these issues in our organization. For instance, we celebrate the World Environment Day every year with targeted awareness raising events.

Since 2011, we have been ISO 14001 certified and have participated in projects with great impact in our community. Among them was the Carbon Footprint initiative, which was promoted by the Bilbao City Council and in which IMQ Zorrotzaurre Clinic was the only medical institution to participate.

Who can people contact you?

If you would like to know more about this initiative, you can contact us at iurrutia [AT] clinica.imq.es.

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