PVC-free and DEHP-free alternatives exist for almost every use of PVC in the health care setting, including medical devices, office supplies, building materials and furnishings.
There are basically two types of alternatives to DEHP-plasticised PVC: non-PVC products and PVC products softened with another plasticizer chemical.
Because plasticizers are not chemically bound to the PVC, they all have the potential to leach from the products. Although there is less evidence of harm with some of the newer plasticizers that may in part be because there has been less research on their toxicity. Avoiding unnecessary chemical exposure is always the safest option, so PVC-free products should be selected wherever possible. Avoiding PVC also means reducing the impact on workers, the environment and the community from pollution caused by PVC manufacturing and disposal.
Alternatives to gloves and IV solution (saline etc) bags are probably the most widely available and economical. For gloves, the most common options are latex and nitrile. Polyethylene (HDPE) IV solution containers are cheap, effective and recyclable, where facilities exist. Both these alternatives can be found at competitive prices almost anywhere in the world.
Non-PVC tubing and other very flexible products are usually silicone. Other alternative plastics include ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), polyesters, various polyolefins, elastomers and certain polyurethanes.
PVC-free tubing and blood bags can be harder to find outside Europe and the USA, but in those places alternatives are available for all but one product, packed red blood cells. The PVC-free bags are technically competitive with PVC bags. PVC-free or DEHP-free tubing is on the market for most medical applications.
In addition to medial devices, PVC-free construction and furnishing products are widely available and are often cost-competitive. PVC-free mattress covers and shower curtains are an easy example. Construction materials, furnishings, and furniture products account for approximately 75% of all PVC use.
HCWH has compiled lists of PVC- and DEHP-alternatives for medical and other products in Europe and the USA. Because of the particular concern about the risk to newborns, a special list of alternative products for neonatal intensive care units has been produced.
Manufacturers can notify us of new products by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.