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There has been much written regarding the use of PVC vinyl products in water pipe, medical applications, toys, packaging and other consumer applications. Some fanatical groups are advocating the ban of vinyl and chlorine throughout the world. Their claims of dangers of vinyl, based on outdated studies, inconclusive reports, and "junk science" continue to be disproved by sound scientific research conducted by reputable scientists and by the vinyl industry. Here are a few examples:
New Phthalate study is PVC’s Koop d’etat
The PVC industry had the world's attention June 22, 1999, and for a change it was happy to be in the spotlight.
Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop pronounced phthalates completely safe in medical devices and toys. His declaration was reported widely in the popular press. This is the same press that a year ago had never heard of phthalates, but just seven months ago helped bully retailers into pulling soft vinyl toys from store shelves.
A variety of commentators picked up on Koop's study, and Koop himself authored an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal. Much of the coverage made a connection between his study and a report on the safety of silicone breast implants. The commentators criticized the trend toward "junk" science that attacks products with anecdotal evidence that doesn’t stand up to the rigors of scientific inquiry.
In this celebrity-crazed era, a stamp of approval from Koop seems to be just the prescription that the vinyl industry needed. Koop was arguably the most visible surgeon general in U.S. history. He used the office as a bully pulpit, and in the process won a gold-plated reputation as an advocate for public health.
Critics attacked the Koop study, arguing that the American Council on Science and Health, which organized the project, was funded by, and therefore a pawn of, chemical industry interests. Given Koop's stature, it will be difficult to make that charge stick.
The key now will be for the vinyl industry to sustain its success. It needs to reinforce Koop's conclusion and create a public perception that vinyl products are safe. It needs to convince a few former customers to shift course publicly and go back to using PVC.
In the meantime, it should continue to support research into the safety of PVC, as well as research and development efforts to make vinyl resin production, use and disposal as safe as possible.
This article is from Plastic News Magazine, July 5, 1999 as shown in the Viewpoint.
In an interview on CBS This Morning, Dr. Koop stated that the medical profession has over 40 years of historical data showing the safety of vinyl products used in health care applications. He stated that the use of phlalate plasticizers in medical applications has proven to be a safe and cost effective practice, and that consumers should not be concerned with its use in health care.
NEW ORLEANS - Baxter International Inc., a leading supplier of medical products, wants to set the record straight regarding its use of flexible PVC.
The Deerfield, III.- based firm was thrust into the spotlight in April when, after shareholders expressed concern about alleged health problems resulting from PVC use, Baxter officials said the company would continue its effort to find alternatives to vinyl products.
In a June 24 speech at Flexpo 99 in New Orleans, Baxter technical director K.Z. Hong said the company had been reviewing alternate materials for several years.
"We’re constantly searching for better materials," Hong said. "People were asking us why we were resisting change, and that’s totally contrary to the truth."
Hong said Baxter has replaced rigid and semirigid PVC applications such as blister packaging and drip chambers as superior replacement materials were developed. Flexible PVC also has been replaced in applications including bags for pre-mix drugs and some blood products such as platelets.
But in most flexible PVC applications, competing materials haven't been able to match the variety of attributes PVC can offer, he said.
Materials aiming for PVC’s medical uses include thermoplastics elastomers and metallocene or single-site-enhanced grades of polyethylene and polypropylene, as well as numerous blends, alloys and multilayer laminates made from those materials.
Hong laid out those criteria in a three-tiered, pyramid-shaped diagram, with basic attributes on the bottom and difficult ones on top. By volume, 80 percent of medical PVC applications require materials that can reach the third level.
Hong also repeated Baxter’s belief that PVC is not harmful in medical uses. Greenpeace and other activist groups have claimed that phthalates used in plasticizers can leach out of PVC blood bags and intravenous tubing and enter the bloodstream.
Most potential replacement materials are significantly more expensive than PVC. But Hong said the cost factor has been exaggerated in some accounts.
"There's been a misleading impression that we've overemphasized the cost, and that makes Greenpeace think we're only thinking of dollar signs," Hong said.
"That's totally untrue. The first item on our list of material-selection criteria is the safety of the end users. The material must first do no harm to patients."
Hong added that PVC has more than 40 years of safe and effective clinical use working in its favor. That history adds up to at least 5 billion patient days of acute exposure to PVC products and at least 1 billion patient days of chronic exposure.
"The PVC experience has been very unique," Hong said. "The material is unchallengeable today, but maybe tomorrow that will change."
Baxter has done a good job of handling the PVC issue so far, according to Robert Brookman, vice president of Teknor Apex, a PVC compounder headquartered in Pawtucket, R.I.
"Initially, I was shocked at what [Baxter] said, when it sounded like they were actively seeking to replace PVC," Brookman said. "But when the company followed up and straightened things out, I felt more comfortable with it."
Brookman added that PVC’s history of widespread medical use, combined with research such as former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's recent study, are proof of the material's safety.
"This argument doesn't have a leg to stand on," Brookman said. "There's no sound data that shows PVC is medically harmful."
This article was written by Frank Esposito and published in the Plastic News Magazine, July 5, 1999 edition.
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