Moving Toward Environmentally Friendly Medical Supplies

Health care organization Kaiser Permanente is in the business of caring for people and is now taking a step toward protecting the environment. The organization will be switching to PVC- and DEHP-free IV medical equipment.

Studies have shown that polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and di-2-ethyl hexyl phthalate (DEHP) are harmful to humans and the environment. Both of these industrial chemicals are widely used in medical equipment and can affect the body's endocrine system. Long-term exposure to DEHP can cause a variety of hormonal abnormalities that are problematic, especially in infants, and PVC manufacturing or incineration can release dioxin, a known carcinogen.

Kaiser Permanente will begin using IV solution bags that are 100% PVC- and DEHP-free and IV tubing that is 100% free of DEHP. With 4.9 million tubing sets and 9.2 million solution bags purchased each year, this change affects nearly 100 tons of medical equipment and is expected to save almost $5 million a year.

"We at Kaiser Permanente recognize that the products we buy can have a direct effect on human health and the health of our environment," said Raymond J. Baxter, senior vice president for Community Benefit, Research and Health Policy. "Our efforts to remove harmful chemicals from hospitals and clinics reflect our commitment to the total health of our members and our communities."

Kaiser Permanente is large enough to have influence to move the industry toward greener products. By closely looking at the products they purchase, Kaiser Permanente can improve health today and for the future.

"Kaiser Permanente is continually working to highlight the connection between environmental health and public health, through green purchasing, sustainable energy solutions, and informing public policy," said Kathy Gerwig, Kaiser Permanente's vice president for employee safety, health and wellness, and environmental stewardship officer. "With this switch to IV materials that are free of PVC and DEHP, we are making a significant stride in protecting the health and safety of our members and our communities."

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