As health care workers around the world battle the spread of Ebola, plastics processors are doing their part — ramping up production and even giving products away.
Plastic's most visible role comes in the form of the protective suits worn by medical professionals.
DuPont Co., one of the companies that makes personal protective equipment (PPE) used to fight the Ebola outbreak in Africa, has increased its production, according to the company.
“We have already tripled production of our most relevant products for the treatment of infected patients,” said spokesman Dan Turner. “Our DuPont Protection Technologies business has been collaborating with Médecins Sans Frontières [Doctors Without Borders], the World Health Organization and other organizations involved in the response to address the demand for our personal protection garments in the impacted region.”
Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont has taken on more than $250,000 in air freight charges to help move stock of its six different types of Tychem PPE suits — from disposable to sanitizeable and reusable — around to where they are most needed, Turner said.
In spite of some reports that the polyethyelene fiber reinforced PPE suits are in short supply in some places, a U.S.-based Doctors Without Borders spokesman says that is not the case for his organization's Africa operations at this time, including in the three hardest-hit countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Kimberly-Clark, which makes other protective gear such face masks, eye protection, shoe covers and exam gloves under its Kleenguard brand, is also ramping up production, though not as dramatically as DuPont just yet, according to reports.
The competitors have also joined forces on a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) effort to spur design improvements to PPE suits, specifically to keep health care workers cooler while still protecting them. Ideas for the $5 million challenge for more breathable protective suits can be submitted through the USAID website. DuPont and Kimberly-Clark are prepared to test out new designs with rapid prototyping.
Reports from Africa have said that heat generated inside the suit limit the amount of time health care workers can be in them.