History and Victories

How HCWH Europe Began

Health Care Without Harm Europe was established in 2003 to focus on lobbying and implementing sustainable practices at a European-wide level. Thirteen organisations and additional stakeholders who were active in the health and environmental sectors came together to develop a Constitution, form a Member's Council, elect a Board of Directors, appoint a Steering Committee and set out an agenda to to create an environmentally responsible European healthcare system.

HCWH, as an international coalition, was founded in 1996 after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identified medical waste incineration as the leading source of dioxin, one of the most potent carcinogens. In response to this serious problem, 28 organizations came together in Bolinas, California to form the coalition Health Care Without Harm.

Success Stories

In just over one decade, HCWH Europe has had a significant impact on major health systems, healthcare workers, medical device manufacturers, group purchasing organizations and EU regulators. Our successes include:

  • Banning mercury thermometers in the European Union
  • Closing thousands of medical waste incinerators and promoting safer technologies and waste management practices
  • Creating new markets for safe and healthy products by leveraging the massive purchasing power of the healthcare sector
  • Initiating a Green Building program specifically geared to hospitals
  • Developing a Healthy Food project that is changing the way hospitals purchase food to support sustainable agricultural practices
  • Creating new programs to reduce the climate footprint of the health care sector