Environmental effects of the consumption of infant foods

Dr Bernadette O'Regan, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science

Dr. Bernadette O’Regan, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science leads a research team examining the environmental effects of the consumption of infant foods: this follows the general methodology adopted by Dr. O’Regan which maximizes participation of the community but at the same time is sufficiently rigorous and evidence-based to be publishable in leading journals.  These are most readily analysed at hospital level through observations on resource efficiency and solid, electronic, and liquid wastes generated.  If our healthcare facilities are to follow World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations on infant feeding, scenario analysis indicates that actions to minimise environmental impacts are necessarily much more complex than simply decisions based on breastfeeding or infant formula.  The research team is working with the Environmental Protection Agency, University of Limerick Hospitals, University of Limerick Maternity Hospital and Cork University Maternity Hospital. 

The aim of this research is to identify significant impacts and develop strategies and policies to mitigate these where possible.  As part of this research Dr. O’Regan is (1) identifying international best practice in procurement systems and waste reduction which may feasibly be introduced in Irish hospitals; (2) developing additional strategies, guidance and methodologies where required and aligning these to best practice as identified by the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, HSE and WHO.  The research will develop and deliver an Environmental Education and Guidance document and protocol for procurement specialists and healthcare professionals.  It will identify push and pull factors which affect waste generation in the maternity services sector of healthcare and households with young children.  The research also aims to provide a preliminary assessment of environmental impact of infant feeding decisions in healthcare, domestic and community settings and will deliver Policy Recommendation Documents, Guidelines on Best Practice, plus academic journal publications.