Eco-Friendly Medical Equipment to Replace Chemical-Laden IV Equipment
In a major move to safer, healthier products for patients, employees, and the environment, Kaiser Permanente in January committed to converting its purchase of intravenous medical equipment to alternate products that are free of PVC and DEHP, two industrial chemicals used in plastics that have been shown to have harmful effects on human health and the environment.
The switch will affect purchases of almost five million IV tubing sets and 9.2 million solution bags annually, totaling nearly 100 tons of medical equipment. In addition to getting safer, more eco-friendly products, the conversion will actually save close to $5 million a year.
The move marks a major success for Kaiser Permanente's Sustainability Scorecard, the first of its kind in health care and a model for green purchasing. The scorecard, which launched in 2010, allows Kaiser Permanente to evaluate the environmental and health impacts of each medical item it purchases. It also encourages suppliers across the industry to provide greener products for the health care sector. The scorecard requires suppliers to provide information on their company's environmental commitment, use of potentially harmful chemicals in their products, and information about product and packaging recycling. With Kaiser Permanente's size and influence, we are able to move the industry to create greener products, said Barry Brenner, vice president for medical sourcing at Kaiser Permanente.
Research suggests that long-term exposure to DEHP, used as a plasticizer in medical devices such as IV bags and tubing, can affect the body's endocrine system, resulting in a variety of hormonal abnormalities, particularly in infants. When PVC plastic is manufactured or incinerated, pollution in the form of dioxin, a known carcinogen, is produced. These substances are currently widely used throughout the health care industry.
The focus on greener products is just one aspect of Kaiser Permanente's industry-leading work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce the use of harmful chemicals, and promote sustainable food choices. For more information about Kaiser Permanente's environmental efforts, go to kp.org/green.