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Kaiser Permanente Switches to PVC- and DEHP-Free IV Bags

Kaiser Permanente announced today that it is converting its IV medical equipment to alternatives free of PVC and DEHP, two industrial chemicals that the company says have been shown to harm human and environmental health.

Kaiser Permanente has agreed to purchase IV solution bags that are 100 percent PVC- and DEHP-free and intravenous tubing that is 100 percent free of DEHP. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and DEHP (di-2-ethyl hexyl phthalate) are both widely used in medical products, the company says.

Kaiser buys 4.9 million IV tubing sets and 9.2 million solution bags each year. This conversion affects nearly 100 tons of medical equipment and also is expected to save close to $5 million a year.

The move stems from Kaiser’s use of its Sustainability Scorecard, launched in 2010, which allows the company to evaluate the environmental and health impacts of each medical item it purchases, and encourages suppliers to provide greener products for the health care sector. Kaiser describes the scorecard as the first of its kind in health care and a model for green purchasing in the 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.

According to Kaiser, 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. This results in a variety of hormonal abnormalities, particularly in infants. When PVC plastic is manufactured or incinerated, the known carcinogen dioxin is created.

Kaiser Permanente spends more than $1 billion each year on medical products.

Kaiser says it has also eliminated the purchase and disposal of 40 tons of harmful chemicals in its facilities. The organization has worked with suppliers to virtually eliminate the use of products and equipment that contain mercury, a neurotoxin.

Last year, the organization said it had agreed to deploy up to 15 MW of solar panels at Kaiser Permanente facilities across California. It also announced plans to install 4 MW of “Bloom boxes,” fuel cells made by Bloom Energy.

And in October the company led Computerworld’s rankings of the top green IT users.

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