On 17 March 2022, HCWH Europe hosted a webinar to discuss the health and environmental impacts of the linear medical textile life-cycle (manufacture, use, and disposal) and the harmful substances that are used in their production. Our expert speakers offered an overview of medical textiles and discussed how we need to urgently rethink and redesign medical textile products to phase out harmful chemicals. A recording of the session and featured presentations are available below.
Medical textiles can contain harmful chemicals such as PFAS, biocides, and flame-retardants. Exposure to these chemicals through medical textiles is a growing concern for the health of manufacturers, workers, and patients – particularly those from vulnerable groups.
These hazardous substances are often used in medical textiles to improve functionality and meet the desired requirements – even when safer alternatives exist. Medical textiles are rapidly growing within the technical textile market. Products including linen, surgical gowns, aprons, uniforms, masks, surgical drapes, and personal protective equipment (PPE) are today considered crucial during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Single-use textiles, in particular, pose a major threat as these end up in landfills or incinerators, emitting toxic substances and greenhouse gases, significantly polluting air, water, and soil.
With a focus on hygiene products, our speakers spoke about the development of sustainable medical textiles, including the importance of designing to current legislation and the challenges with life-cycle chemicals management.
We discussed themes from HCWH Europe’s recent report The role of chemistry in sustainable medical textiles, in which we emphasise the importance of addressing the chemistry in medical textiles and offer recommendations to different stakeholders to move towards sustainable medical textiles. We also learnt more about the development of sustainable medical textiles and how healthcare institutions can use the European healthcare’s phase-out list for chemicals of concern to accelerate the phase-out of harmful substances from medical textile procurement.
In this webinar we:
- Shared experiences and expert knowledge of medical textiles and the chemistry behind them
- Increased participants’ awareness of chemicals of concern commonly used in medical textiles
- Encouraged hospitals and healthcare providers to phase out these chemicals in their procurement.
Katia Pacella, Circular Healthcare Projects Officer - HCWH Europe [Moderator]
Katia holds an MSc in Planning and Management of Agro-territorial, Forest and Landscape Ecosystems with a focus on chemical pollution and Environmental Management from the University of Bologna. She has extensive technical knowledge in chemical pollution and working experience in soil, water, and groundwater remediation.
Holly Morris, Surgeon and Medical Textile Specialist - Textile Institute
Internationally trained, Holly holds dual professional registration across the medical and textile industries and has an interest in the development of medical devices. Working closely with academia and industry, she has experience supervising students in medicine and medical device design.
A registered medical professional, Holly is completing higher surgical training in Trauma and Orthopaedics and is a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.
A Chartered Member and Fellow of the Textile Institute, Holly is passionate about the interactions between smart and medical textiles with the human body and is well-published in professional literature. Holly has a particular interest in the use of ethically sourced, sustainable materials within the sector and sits on a number of internal advisory and working groups.
Stefan Posner, Independent researcher - Sweden
Stefan Posner is a polymer and textile chemist with over 35 years’ experience in research on chemicals in textiles and polymeric materials in cooperation with international companies, international and national authorities, and academia. Stefan has been working for many years with legal preparatory work on chemicals for the UNEP Stockholm Convention, the EU Commission, and several national authorities. He is deeply involved in research to replace hazardous chemicals with possible and technically functioning low-toxic alternatives.
Tore Havellen, Environment, Health & Safety Advisor - Oslo University Hospital
Tore Havellen holds an MSc in Ecotoxicology University of Oslo. He is specialised in chemical management from procurement to waste. Tore has been in his role for 23 years at Oslo University Hospital. He also covers a part-time position of chemical advisor at The Norwegian Hospital Procurement Trust (Sykehusinnkjop HF) and Health region South-East.