Board acts on environmental policies

Veterinary wastes policy revised, climate change policy adopted
Published on December 15, 2008
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The AVMA Executive Board dealt with some 200 recommendations during its Nov. 13-15 meeting. Several highlights were reported in the Dec. 15, 2008, JAVMA News. What follows here are other actions taken by the board.

The AVMA recognizes that climate change has
serious, far-reaching negative implications for
animal and ecosystem health.

The AVMA Executive Board approved revisions to the Policy on Veterinary Wastes in an effort to head off possible federal regulations of how veterinary practices dispose of unused pharmaceuticals.

Also approved by the board was a policy addressing the link between global climate change and animal health.

Citing concerns about drugs in U.S. waterways, the Environmental Protection Agency is planning on surveying the health care industry to determine how hospitals, veterinary hospitals, and other such facilities are disposing of unused pharmaceuticals. The most common method is flushing the drugs down the toilet or drain, according to the agency.

The AVMA responded to the EPA's call for comments on its proposal, saying veterinarians release only a very small amount of pharmaceuticals into the environment and should not be surveyed (see story).

A number of AVMA entities were collaborating on formulating the AVMA's response. The Committee on Environmental Issues had drafted a revised Policy on Veterinary Wastes, adopted in 1991 and amended in 2003, to better equip the Association to deal with possible regulations fostered by the EPA survey. The Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents recommended minor changes to the CEI proposal, which the board approved.

The updated policy reads as follows:

Veterinary Wastes

The AVMA encourages the use of sound science to characterize veterinary medical waste hazards, associated risks, and define methods to minimize those risks. The AVMA encourages relevant state and federal agencies dealing with veterinary medical waste to use reasonable approaches in the formulation of regulations that consider risk/benefit analyses, the environment, the impact on the veterinary profession, and the health and welfare of patients.

The Committee on Environmental Issues also recommended the board approve adopting the Policy on Global Climate Change and Animal Health, which the board did. The policy reads:

Global Climate Change and Animal Health

The American Veterinary Medical Association recognizes that climate change has serious far-reaching negative implications for animal and ecosystem health, and the potential to place unprecedented demands on societies and entities responsible for managing animal health. The AVMA therefore encourages:

  • The One Health approach with strong coordination and collaboration among all tiers of public health, agriculture, and animal management government agencies to address climate change issues of mutual concern;
  • Enhancing the capacity of federal, state, and local public health agencies, tribal nations, and non-governmental organizations to prepare for and respond to animal disease threats and animal health impacts linked to climate change;
  • Well designed research to increase understanding of the potential impacts of climate change on animals and ecosystem health, as well as developing and enhancing early warning, surveillance and response systems to mitigate the animal health impacts of climate change; and,
  • The development of educational initiatives to raise the awareness of the link between climate change, animal diseases and animal health among all stakeholders.

In the recommendation background, the committee stated that there is widespread scientific agreement that the world's climate is changing and that the weight of evidence demonstrates that anthropogenic factors have, and will continue to contribute significantly to global warming and climate change.

It is anticipated, the committee continued, that continuing changes to the climate will have serious negative impacts on public, animal, and ecosystem health due to extreme weather events, changing disease transmission dynamics, emerging and re-emerging diseases, and alterations to habitat and ecological systems that are essential to animal conservation.

Furthermore, there is increasing recognition of the inter-relationships of human, domestic and wild animal, and ecosystem health, as illustrated by the fact that the majority of recent emerging diseases have an animal origin. Consequently, there is a critical need to improve the capacity to identify, prevent, and respond to climate-related threats.

The committee believes the new policy would serve the AVMA well in linking climate change and animal health.