Flexible Vinyl Compounds with Biobased Plasticizers Promote Safety, Sustainability

Author: 
Shana Leonard
BioVinyl compounds with Dow Ecolibrium biobased plasticizers offer a safe and environmentally friendly alternative to phthalate-containing PVC for medical applications.

Rising safety and environmental concerns have prompted many hospitals to consider phasing out the use of PVC medical products because of their incorporation of DEHP and other phthalates. But this PVC-free policy is a misguided approach that prohibits the use of an often-optimal medical material, according to Michael Roberts, business development manager at Teknor Apex Co. (Pawtucket, RI). Looking to overcome the stigma of PVC while eliminating the use of phthalates, Teknor Apex has developed BioVinyl flexible vinyl compounds made with biobased plasticizers that promote patient safety while offering a reduced carbon footprint.

“A lot of hospitals are evaluating whether to [phase out] PVC, but they’re doing so without really looking at sustainability or the scientific data around the product,” Roberts comments. “If you get out of PVC, you are moving into a product that is less optimal for the application and not necessarily better for the environment. In reality, you’re just adding cost, increased design energy, and increased inefficiency into the product line.”

In an effort to retain the desirable properties of PVC without the use of phthalates, Teknor Apex partnered with Dow Chemical Co. to incorporate Dow Ecolibrium biobased plasticizers into its BioVinyl family of flexible vinyl compounds. Derived from vegetable substances, the phthalate-free plasticizers serve as a direct replacement for DEHP in PVC. They are suitable for use in IV lines, endotracheal tubes, oxygen and anesthesia masks, drainage bags, and other medical applications in which PVC has traditionally been employed.

While ensuring that patient safety is a key goal, BioVinyl compounds featuring Dow Ecolibrium plasticizers offer the additional advantage of being environmentally friendly. Life cycle analysis tests performed by Dow and supported by a third party revealed that the flexible vinyl compound equipped with the biobased plasticizer reduces carbon dioxide–equivalent emissions by 41% compared with conventional vinyl. “It’s one of the lowest carbon footprints of any plastic,” Roberts adds.

BioVinyl compounds with Dow Ecolibrium are processed using conventional methods and at a price comparable to other nonphthalate vinyl compounds, according to the company. “Almost all green plastics either compromise cost or performance. Or, if you get cost or performance, they’re derived from oil,” Roberts says. “In our case, you really don’t pay a premium above a nonphthalate and it performs as well as, if not better than, traditional products and plasticizers.”