Over the last several years, the medical industry has become more aware of the toxic side effects of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The American Public Health Association passed a resolution in November 2011 urging hospitals, schools, and nursing homes to reduce the amount of PVC they use.

Fig. 1 – Cleanroom quality control includes examining colored luers under magnification.
PVC is a plasticizer that has long been used to increase plastic’s flexibility and transparency. These two characteristics are very important in all of the tubing that is used in the medical industry.

The question has become, “Why are manufacturers so slow to respond with PVC-free solutions?” The answer lies in the following three major inhibitors:

It is extremely difficult to maintain the desired characteristics of flexibility and transparency while eliminating the harmful attributes of PVC. There are significant costs associated with researching and replacing PVC products that they have produced for many years. And, there is an enormous capital outlay required to convert to materials that are completely PVC free.

For products like oxygen tubing, intravenous lines, and gas sample lines that have traditionally been made out of PVC, converting existing equipment is costly or virtually impossible. In most cases, a machine that has previously produced PVC products cannot be used to manufacture any other material. This is because the plasticizers used in the production of PVC products can permanently contaminate the equipment. Manufacturers have found that those by products can cause corruption and premature deterioration to any other product manufactured using that same machine. The only option becomes a complete capital investment in new equipment that has never processed any PVC products.

Eldon James Corporation made a commitment more than five years ago to invest in brand new equipment and manufacture only products that are free of PVC. This decision has placed the company at the forefront for innovations and solutions with ten different alternatives to PVC tubing. Currently, the PVC-free tubing, fittings, and assemblies being produced by Eldon James include gas sample lines, oxygen lines, intravenous lines, breast pump tubing, and more. In addition, they continue to be one of the only ISO 13485:2003 manufacturers that produces, assembles, and packages their products within a single clean room environment.

“Our focus on environmental responsibility led us to the PVC-free solutions beginning more than 10 years ago,” stated Marcia Coulson, President of Eldon James. “We realized early on that we must obtain equipment that had not been contaminated by PVC and that is where we made investments in new equipment. With a continual environmental awareness, it has also influenced our decision to contain the entire process in a single cleanroom environment so we are able to better manage consistency and quality control for the products that we make for the medical equipment market.”

By containing the entire process and keeping all components and processes within one facility, the company says that it has minimized packaging and transport while increasing the ability to control quality consistently from start to finish, and significantly reducing the costs of production. (See Figure 1)

“There are simple things that you may not think of that ultimately benefit our customers,” Coulson says, “like the immediate assurance of fit consistency from tubing to fittings in each assembly. We are able to constantly monitor this continuity in our assemblies because everything is right there in one place. For our customers, these efficiencies translate to more consistent quality for assemblies, increased speed to market and ultimately cost savings.”

This article was written by Mark Timbrook, International Marketing Manager for Eldon James Corporation, Denver, CO. For more information, Click Here .