On behalf of Health Care Without Harm's 170 members (that's 169 plus Greenpeace), I am responding to the March 1 Viewpoint, ``PVC critics sound new round of gripes.'' Our concerns are not merely ``gripes'' but genuine fears for the human-health consequences of these products.
The premise of Health Care Without Harm is firmly rooted in the physician's oath to ``first, do no harm.'' By promoting environmentally responsible health care, our coalition is working to improve the quality of patient care and reduce the environmental impact of health-care practices.
Plastics News argues that we should accept vinyl IV bags because they've been around for 40 years. This is backward logic that denies the spirit of scientific innovation upon which this country was founded. Aspirin was recommended for children for more than 40 years before its connection to Reye's Syndrome was found. Cars were around for more than 40 years and countless people were injured or killed before we added seat belts. But in those and many other instances, we learned as a society to move forward toward a safer way of doing things.
Health Care Without Harm has determined that it is time to take advantage of new technology and move forward to safer plastics. We reached this conclusion by having many of our members, particularly health-care providers, review the science and the products. Their conclusion: The risks of cancer and organ damage from di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate, or DEHP, in vinyl; the hazards from dioxin that is created when vinyl is produced or burned; and the availability of Food and Drug Administration-approved, cost-competitive DEHP-free alternatives make now the right time for this advance in health-care delivery systems.
Our coalition members, which include the Breast Cancer Fund, Breast Cancer Action, DES Cancer Network, Women's Cancer Resource Centers, the Learning Disabilities Association, the White Lung Association and the Endometriosis Association, want to avoid unnecessary risks when they or their families receive medical care for their chronic health problems. We do not believe that it is the role of the patients to have to ``diagnose'' problems with vinyl IV products. Rather, we rely on health-care providers and the makers of medical devices to practice precaution and choose the safest possible materials.
The fact that nonvinyl IV bags are available, FDA-approved and cost-competitive in this country, and that even more nonvinyl options are available in Europe and Japan, shows that the precautionary approach of avoiding the avoidable risks can coexist with profit — but only when combined with ethics. IV bag makers, hospitals and patients can all profit when a health-care facility chooses to provide PVC-free care.
It is HCWH's ethical foundation that has led such ``radical'' groups as the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, Catholic Healthcare West, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Oncology Nursing Society, Vietnam Veterans of America-Michigan chapter, and others to join in our endeavor to transform the health-care industry so that it is no longer a source of environmental harm, without compromising workers' safety or patient care.
Jackie Hunt Christensen
Health Care Without Harm