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ISSUE 59 page 8

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New web site promotes toxic chemical substitution

 AT THE END OF MAY A NEW INTERNET TOOL came to the aid of companies seeking to replace their use of toxic substances with safer alternatives. Faced with stricter regulation under EU legislation such as Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) and the Water Framework and Chemical Agents directives, added to growing awareness among consumers, firms that use hazardous chemicals are under pressure to substitute less harmful alternatives. The SUBSPORT web site aims to make the process easier and less expensive by publicising what other companies in the same field have already done. At the launch of the service there were were over 100 case studies on the site from large multinationals and small companies, trade unions, hospitals, universities and public procurement departments. Eva-Lena Carlén-Johansson, the manager of sustainability projects at
Carlen-Johansson, E.L.

the Skanska construction company, told the launch event that the firm had co-operated with the Stockholm County Council to substitute a safer injectable mortar for the usual substance. She concluded that ‘when we share this case story in SUBSPORT it enables others to find this alternative and to see that it works’. Ana García Oliver from the Madrid branch of Spanish union CC.OO presented the trade unions’ view of how they could improve workplace conditions through substitution. CC.OO have contributed a case study on replacing trichloroethylene used at a printing school with a coconut oil-based compound.
As well as the case studies the web site will include legal information on substitution, a database of hazardous substances, and the criteria for identifying them, already existing substitution tools and training programmes.

Eva-Lena Carlen-Johansson, Manager Sustainability Projects, Skanska



UK and Denmark lead in telehealth as report stresses rôle of government

TELEHEALTH IS A CATCH-ALL term encompassing any development in information technology which can be used remotely by patients and doctors. It can range from an email requesting a prescription to the live monitoring of blood pressure over the Internet. A new report presented to the eHealth conference in Copenhagen in May found that Denmark and the U.K. were out in front when it came to adopting telehealth as part of their national health services. The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre praised Denmark: ‘The Danes have succeeded in deploying telehealth, because all relevant stakeholders have been encouraged to join in’, said scientific officer Fabienne Abadie, adding ‘one cannot hope that the market alone can push the use of telehealth into care practice. A good model of governance is crucial’. Particular attention was drawn to a project at Odense University where patients with arrhythmia had their hearts monitored in their own homes by an ‘ePatch’. This device sent back an electrocardiogram reading (ECG) twice a day to their doctor.
In Britain the Whole System Demonstrator Programme involved over 6,000 patients in Newham, Cornwall and Kent who suffered from diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or heart failure. Each area used different telehealth techniques but overall the three-year project revealed a 20% decrease in emergency hospital admissions, a 14% decrease in voluntary admissions and bed days as well as a 45% reduction in mortality. The UK Department of Health estimates that three million people could benefit from telehealth and telecare.
Another report, this time from a high-level ‘eHealth task force’ group believes that the health care sector is ‘at least 10 years behind virtually every other area in the implementation of IT solutions’. It recommends legal safeguards for private information so that patients are happy to use the new technology, creating a beacon group of Member States and regions who are most advanced in this field, and specific EU budgets for innovation in telehealth practice. The group bases this advice on the assumption that patients own their own data, want to use the same technology in their health care as they do in other areas of life and will become more demanding of health professionals as access to information becomes more transparent. It warns, however, that there will still be minorities who do not have access to the Internet and are therefore in danger of being excluded.

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