WASHINGTON — A health-care coalition called on hospitals Feb. 2 to stop using and incinerating PVC plastic products, as part of a larger campaign the group is waging against medical waste incineration.
Arlington, Va.-based Health Care Without Harm called on the Washington-based American Hospital Association to recommend that its members phase out PVC in hospitals and clinics and find alternatives to incineration.
The group, a coalition of health-care workers, unions and environmental groups, contends that incineration releases dangerous levels of cancer-causing dioxin into the atmosphere.
An AHA spokesman said the organization is urging its members to look for alternatives to PVC, but ``how they do that is up to them.''
``We should be sure that within the resources we have, we should use the most environmentally sound'' products, said AHA spokesman Rick Wade. ``There is a reality based in the industry position. The other alternatives [to PVC] are not there now.''
PVC industry officials have maintained that incinerator operation — not the presence of PVC — determines the amount of dioxin released.
The HCWH action repeats a call the group made a year ago, and is designed to put pressure on AHA because the HCWH campaign thus far has not convinced most hospitals to consider moving away from PVC, said Karen Perry, associate director of environmental and health programs at Washington-based Physicians for Social Responsibility — an HCWH member.
``The vast majority of hospitals are just not there in their thinking,'' she said.
Several hospital chains or health-care trade associations, however, have in recent months adopted purchasing policies discouraging PVC use or urged that the industry move away from PVC. Those include Catholic Healthcare West, a San Francisco-based group of 37 hospitals; the American Nurses Association in Washington; and the board of directors of the Minnesota Hospital and Healthcare Partnership, a group of 141 hospitals in Minnesota.
``We have made the commitment to ... drastically reduce if not phase out our use of polychlorinated plastics by the year 2000,'' said Susan Vickers, director of advocacy at Catholic Healthcare West. ``But the caveat is that we will need to have products at comparable quality and cost. And we need to develop the plans that will actually implement that commitment.''
Robert Burnett, executive director of the Vinyl Institute, a Morristown, N.J., unit of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., said the PVC industry has not seen any impact in the market from the HCWH effort.
``As long as purchasing decisions continue to be made on price and performance, vinyl will be the predominant product,'' Burnett said.
The HCWH campaign is a ``serious accusation,'' and the vinyl industry is grateful that the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association have been supportive, he said.
HCWH criticized AHA for hiring a medical waste consultant, Larry Doucet, whose firm designs medical waste incinerators.