Last Friday and Saturday, the Colonnade Hotel in Boston was the site of CleanMed 2001, a conference on how the careful selection of medical supplies can benefit both human health and the environment. The conference was organized by Health Care Without Harm, an organization founded in 1996 to promote reform of environmental practices in the healthcare industry.

Speakers from Europe and the U.S. discussed five topic areas in environmentally preferable purchasing: mercury elimination; safer products for workers; polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic use; "green" and healthy buildings; and reprocessing of single-use medical devices.

These issues were selected by health care leaders at the October 2000 ``Setting Healthcare's Environmental Agenda'' conference in San Francisco.

``We have two primary goals for this conference,'' said Mark Rossi, conference organizer, of Health Care Without Harm. ``We want to accelerate the international development and use of cleaner, safer and high-quality medical products. We also want to provide a forum for healthcare purchasing staff, vendors and researchers to discuss and evaluate the performance of alternative products.''

CleanMed 2001 was sponsored by the American Nurses Association; BayCare Health System; Boston University School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health; Brigham & Women's Hospital; Catholic Healthcare West; Catholic Health East; Catholic Health Initiatives; Consorta; Dana Farber Cancer Institute; Foundation for Healthy Communities; H+ The Hospitals of Switzerland; Harvard University School of Public Health, Department of Occupational Medicine; Health Care Without Harm; Kaiser Permanente; International Council of Nurses; International Society of Doctors for the Environment; Massachusetts Hospital Association; Massachusetts Nurses Association; Minnesota Hospital & Healthcare Partnership; Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Department of Community & Preventive Medicine; New England Medical Center; New Hampshire Hospital Association; Physicians for Social Responsibility; Premier, Inc.; Universal Health Services; University of Illinois School of Public Health, Great Lakes Center for Occupational & Environmental Safety & Health; University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Lowell Center for Sustainable Production, Sustainable Hospitals Project; University of Nebraska Medical Center, Green Health Center; University of Tennessee, Center for Clean Products & Clean Technologies; and the University of Wisconsin- Madison, Institute for Environmental Studies.