Ruth Stringer

International Science & Policy Coordinator
Health Care Without Harm

Ruth Stringer is an environmental scientist and activist with over thirty years in research, policy, and implementation.  

Her early career as a research fellow at the Universities of London and, later, Exeter, centred on the sources of, implications and solutions of chemical pollution. Using the capabilities of the gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer to look beyond the limits of target chemical analysis, she helped expand scientific understanding of the implications of the permissive pollution permits of the time.    

A critical lesson was that effluents were far more complex than previously realised, and that few of the components could be identified or their environmental impacts elucidated. The realisation of the inherent uncertainty in our understanding of the effects of pollution became an important scientific underpinning for the precautionary principle, which is now incorporated into the most important environmental protection instruments.  

Ruth also participated directly in the technical working groups of the Basel and Barcelona Conventions, helping shape them, and define categories of waste requiring the strictest control. Investigations into the hazardous additives in PVC products were also instrumental in the first EU ban on phthalates in children’s toys.   

More recently, she has focused on implementing environmental change in the global healthcare sector, as International Science and Policy Coordinator for the international NGO, Health Care Without Harm.   

She advises on and supports healthcare waste management in a range of locations, mostly in Africa and Asia, including an enduring involvement in Nepal. Reducing healthcare waste, including plastics, recycling and biodigestion, sustainable waste treatment technologies and implementation strategies, are important foci for her current work. 

She has also contributed to the WHO guidelines on safe management of waste from health care activities and other key technical documents, including guidance for disposal of waste from COVID diagnosis, treatment, and vaccination.