On Earth Day, Obama administration touts healthcare law's green benefits

The new healthcare law is helping clean up the U.S. environment and improve public health, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement Friday. 

"The health of the American people is directly linked to a healthy environment," Sebelius said in a statement released to mark the 41st anniversary of Earth Day. "At HHS we are committed to doing whatever is necessary to protect the health of all Americans, and we recognize that ensuring a clean and healthy environment is a fundamental part of that effort."

Sebelius said funding in the reform law is helping achieve those goals. For example, the law allowed the Boriken Health Center, a neighborhood primary care center in Harlem, N.Y., to get $12 million for renovations and "significantly reduce the levels of chemicals and harmful materials normally used in construction."

"Ensuring that patients across the country have access to hazard-free care facilities, which are vital to the healing process, and that all Americans face fewer environmental risk factors in their day-to-day lives are efforts that tie directly into our mission here at HHS," Sebelius said.

Environmental hazards are responsible for as much as a quarter of the total burden of disease worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, and more than one-third of the burden among children.