Doctors’ coats and harmful emissions.
Biodegradable medical gowns, designed to be greener than conventional ones, actually produce harmful greenhouse gases, according to new research.
The prevalence of single-use plasticized medical gowns – both conventional and biodegradable – has increased since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Landfills are now full of them. Landfills are now full of them. Because the biodegradable version decomposes faster than conventional gowns, the common belief is that they offer a greener option due to less space usage and chronic emissions to landfills. “There is no magic solution to this problem,” said Fengqi You, a professor of energy systems engineering at Cornell University. Their study presents environmental life cycle assessments of biodegradable gowns to compare their performance to conventional ones.
“ Conventional plastic-coated medical gowns take many years to decompose, while biodegradable ones degrade much faster, but in landfills they emit gases, such as methane and carbon dioxide, faster than regular ones,” You said. According to this research Led by the PhD candidate, the production of biodegradable gowns has an 11% higher ecotoxicity rate than conventional alternatives. Conventional gowns are environmentally and socially sustainable because they can feature 14% less toxic to humans, cause 10% fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and are nearly 10% less toxic to freshwater than landfill biodegradable lab coats with additional gas emissions.