PVC is the most widely used plastic in medical devices. In 1994, the US EPA estimated that medical waste incinerators were the leading source of dioxin air pollution in the country. While no longer the leading source due to the closure of thousands of medical waste incinerators because of grassroots activism and new federal pollution standards - medical waste incineration is still a major source of dioxin pollution, in large part because many waste incinerators remain open and a large amount of disposable PVC plastic products used by hospitals.
DEHP, a phthalate used to soften PVC plastic can leach from PVC medical devices. DEHP is linked to reproductive birth defects and other illnesses, according to animal studies. Some patients may be at risk of harm from certain DEHP-containing medical devices, according to several government agencies such as the U.S. FDA, the Swedish Chemicals Inspectorate, the Japanese Ministry of Health and a Health Canada expert panel. Fortunately, many PVC-free/DEHP-free alternatives are available for use in health care. For information about how some hospitals, health systems, communities and manufacturers are reducing PVC and DEHP use, see the section on case studies, resolutions and shareholder MOUs.
For more information please see www.noharm.org; or call Health Care Without Harm at 1-202-234-0091.