Webinar recording | Tackling harmful chemicals in medical devices

Tackling harmful chemicals in medical devices

 26 May 2021

Last month, HCWH Europe invited experts to present and discuss the risks of harmful chemicals in medical devices and the opportunities to replace them with safer alternatives. A recording of the session and featured presentations are available below.

Healthcare professionals rely on medical devices to treat their patients and safeguard their health. Plastic medical equipment and devices can, however, be a significant source of exposure to harmful endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), including phthalates such as DEHP. Phthalates are often used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) flexible, but these chemicals can harm patients, not only causing infertility issues, but also undermining the efficacy of treatment.

Our invited speakers further discussed the risks and exposures associated with chemicals found in medical devices.

In May 2017, the EU adopted the new Medical Devices Regulation, introducing provisions to help phase out Carcinogenic, Mutagenic, and Reprotoxic chemicals (CMRs) and EDCs in certain medical devices when safer alternatives are available and technically feasible.

In HCWH Europe’s recent Non-toxic Healthcare report we emphasise that safer, alternative medical devices do exist and are widely available but, unfortunately, low awareness amongst healthcare professionals is a barrier to substitution and reducing associated exposures for patients.

Further development of safer medical devices, along with greater demand by caregivers and hospitals will greatly support a transition away from harmful chemicals in medical devices to safer alternatives.

In this webinar we:

  • Outlined the current regulatory framework applicable to medical devices and the opportunities it brings.
  • Presented recent evidence of infant patients’ exposure to EDCs during the course of clinical care.
  • Highlighted current knowledge deficits amongst healthcare providers working with the most vulnerable patients (neonatologists).
  • Emphasised that further awareness and collaboration for substitution is needed amongst healthcare professionals.
  • Raised awareness amongst healthcare providers and inspired them to seek safer alternatives and demand for PVC- and DEHP-free medical devices.

Speakers and presentations

[Moderator] Dorota Napierska, Chemicals Policy & Projects Officer - Health Care Without Harm Europe

PDF icon Tackling harmful chemicals in medical devices (Introduction)

Dorota is responsible for HCWH Europe’s work on safer chemicals, which includes improving awareness of the health and environmental risks posed by key chemicals of concern used in healthcare products, identifying priorities for action, and opportunities for substitution. Dorota holds a PhD in Biomedical Sciences, and is a European Registered Toxicologist (ERT). Prior to joining HCWH Europe, she worked as an expert for the European Commission (DG Joint Research Center), and as a researcher at the Department of Public Health at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium).

Dr Elisabeth Eckert, Post-Doc - Institute and Outpatient Clinic of Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) - Erlangen, Germany

PDF icon Plasticizers in medical devices - Exposure assessment of infants following cardiac surgery

Elisabeth holds a doctoral degree in food chemistry and has recently qualified as a private lecturer in occupational and environmental medical toxicology. Since 2014 Elisabeth has been part of a research project concerning plasticisers in medical devices at the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen, in cooperation with the university hospital in Erlangen, Germany. This research project aims to identify different strategies to reduce plasticiser exposure for patients and hospital employees due to medical procedures.

Dr Myriam Bickle Graz, Associate Doctor - Woman-mother-child Department, Neonatology Service, CHUV (Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois) - Lausanne, Switzerland

PDF icon Phthalates in the NICU

Myriam is a developmental paediatrician affiliated with a large tertiary care neonatal centre, which is the reference centre for 15,000 neonates born each year in the region. She has a special interest in the medical, environmental, and psychosocial determinants of child development. Myriam has published several publications on the presence of phthalates in neonatal intensive care units, a review of phthalates and child development, and a survey on the knowledge and awareness of neonatologists on this subject. As a member of Doctors for the environment, a Swiss association, Myriam believes that healthcare professionals must commit to limiting the impact of environmental pollutants on future generations.

Elaine Mead, Director - Improvement Care and Compassion - Scotland, UK

PDF icon What I didn’t know then…

Elaine has enjoyed over 32 years’ experience in healthcare in the UK, having trained originally as a diagnostic radiographer, moving into leadership after completing an MBA. Now as Director of an organisation supporting leaders in quality improvement across the UK and Europe, Elaine has increasingly become aware of and engaged in the impact that healthcare has on health and the environment. Elaine has experience in implementing large scale change as Chief Executive of the NHS in the north of Scotland and she is currently the Chair of the International Alliance for Water Stewardship.