PVC and Phthalates

The Issue

PVC (also known as vinyl) is the most commonly used plastic in medical devices, such as IV bags and tubing, and it has been used in a wide variety of other applications in the health care setting, such as disposable gloves, curtains, and flooring. Unfortunately, PVC creates a number of environmental health risks.

There are two key problems associated with PVC:

  • Dioxin, a known human carcinogen, can be formed during the manufacture of PVC, and during the incineration or burning of PVC products.
  • DEHP, a phthalate used to soften PVC plastic that can leach from PVC medical devices, is linked to reproductive birth defects and other illnesses.

Several government agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Swedish Chemicals Inspectorate, and a Health Canada expert panel have warned that certain patients — particularly sick infants — may be at risk of harm from phthalates leaching out of PVC medical devices.

Fortunately, medical devices that do not contain PVC or phthalates are available for use — and many health care facilities are switching to these safer alternatives.

Health Care Without Harm is working with hospitals around the world to phase out PVC and phthalates from the health care sector.