Health Science Center captures award for assisting environment


The Health Science Center is a 2005 winner of the prestigious Partners for Change Award, presented by a Washington, D.C. organization called Hospitals for a Healthy Environment.

The Health Science Center is the only comprehensive health sciences university to win the award this year. Fourteen medical centers or health systems also were honored. The Health Science Center is the only Texas institution to win the 2005 award.

“We are proud to have demonstrated our commitment to being a good environmental steward,” said Michael Charlton, Ph.D., the Health Science Center’s director of environmental health and safety.

The Health Science Center received a $25,000 competitive grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2003 to remove mercury-containing devices from clinical and research areas of the institution.

“The U.S. EPA has been promoting environmental awareness in health institutions by funding a variety of pilot projects,” Dr. Charlton said. “We want to reduce or eliminate the possibility for environmental contamination while conducting our missions of health care, education and research. Elemental mercury is a very serious environmental contaminant and we are taking steps to remove it from our practices. A simple example is replacing mercury-based thermometers with alcohol-based thermometers. All the devices we removed were intact. No one in our clinics or laboratories was exposed to mercury, but we were proactive to remove these devices before they could be broken and before people could be exposed. We have replaced devices of all types with safer alternatives.”

The several-years-long project, which also was recognized in 2002 by Gov. Rick Perry with a state of Texas environmental excellence award, involves the San Antonio campuses of the Health Science Center: the Central and North Campuses on Floyd Curl Drive and the Texas Research Park Campus. Newer campuses in Harlingen, Laredo and Edinburg were assessed for safety during their construction.

Dr. Charlton invites anyone at the Health Science Center who wants a clinical or research area assessed to call the environmental health and safety office at 567-2955.

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