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Jono Drew, March 29 2023

The environmental impact of reusable and single-use incontinence underpads in the United States

Research highlights


Objectives of quality principles in the clinical setting present nursing with opportunities for quality patient care but at lower environmental footprint. This affects patients, hospital personnel, and community because choices reduce climate change and thus support an innovative nursing role. This article aims to support nursing knowledge to include environment in decisions regarding patient care and reusable versus disposable incontinence underpads (IUPs). A life cycle analysis was conducted, including soiling, reusable cycles before removal, supply chains, laundry use, and end-of-life environmental impact. The selection of reusable IUPs versus disposables reduced total natural resource energy consumption by 71%, greenhouse gas emissions by 61%, blue water consumption by 57%, and solid waste by 97%. The nursing community can use this information in its health care organizations regarding IUP to advocate for decisions to select reusable IUPs that benefit our environment (air, water, and land).

Methods & Results

For a complete summary of this data source and to see reported environmental impact values for studied products and activities, explore the HealthcareLCA Database.


Griffing E, Overcash M. Reusable and Disposable Incontinence Underpads: Environmental Footprints as a Route for Decision Making to Decarbonize Health Care. Journal of Nursing Care Quality. 2023:10-97. 

Written by

Jono Drew

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