clean hospital room with bed and clean surfaces

Hospital adopts a big change that capitalizes on environmental benefits and cost savings

Richard Helvey, director of environmental services and patient transportation at Cape Coral Hospital, has always been an environmentally conscious purchaser and a manager who cares about protecting the health of his staff. So when he learned about aqueous ozone, a technology that would limit exposure to harmful chemicals and keep pollutants out of the precious Cape Coral waterways, he embarked on a yearlong process of research and trial that ultimately led to its adoption across the entire health system.

Cape Coral Hospital is one of five Florida-based hospitals, along with an additional rehab center, that comprise Lee Memorial Health System. Cape Coral Hospital is an acute care facility with close to 300 beds and more than 1,200 employees, 81 of whom work in environmental services.

As a city, Cape Coral, which is known for its beautiful Gulf coast beaches, has seen unique growth as an influx of winter visitors come and go. In the winter months, the hospital, which sees a total of 55,000 patients annually, is extremely busy. But in the off season, parts of the hospital may shut down from lack of traffic.

For decades, the environmental services department at Cape Coral Hospital tackled infections using a traditional arsenal of cleaning chemicals, which included a general-purpose cleaner, a hospital-grade disinfectant, glass cleaners, floor cleaners, carpet cleaners and specialty cleaners.

“It has always bothered me to watch people in my line of work who’ve spent their entire careers dealing with so many different chemicals,” says Helvey. “The long-range exposure to those chemicals can have a serious health impact, including occupational asthma. I’ve always tried to seek out the most healthy and environmentally preferable options for my teams.”

Healthcare workers had the highest prevalence of asthma among all major industry groups, including manufacturing, agriculture and mining, in an analysis of recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention’s annual National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). According to the survey, workers in the healthcare industry were most likely to report current asthma, asthma attacks, and asthma-related visits to an emergency department.

For staff members that work in environmental services, facing the occupational hazards of the healthcare setting like latex gloves and formaldehyde, while also being in constant contact with cleaning chemicals, provides a double-risk factor for occupational asthma.

Aqueous Ozone Facts

The drive to protect his team from occupational asthma by choosing healthier cleaning products is what motivated Helvey to research alternatives when he joined the Cape Coral team four years ago. That’s also what led him to learn about aqueous ozone.

Aqueous ozone is the combination of plain tap water and ozone gas. Oxygen from the air is converted into ozone and mixed with regular, cold tap water to form aqueous ozone. When sprayed onto a surface, the ozone is attracted to soils, germs and other contaminants. Once attached to the soils, the ozone eliminates them and then converts back to oxygen and water.

More specifically, an electric corona discharge generator is used to split O2 into free oxygen atoms (O1). The free oxygen atoms then link up with oxygen molecules to form ozone (O3) — similar to what happens in the earth’s atmosphere during a lightning storm. Infuse that ozone into water and it creates aqueous ozone, a powerful cleaning and deodorizing solution. In fact, aqueous ozone has been used for over 100 years to purify drinking water.

Different from traditional synthetic chemicals, aqueous ozone is residue free and doesn’t contain harmful VOCs or fragrances that can negatively impact indoor air quality or the environment.

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