“Ripped from the headlines” is a phrase more associated with prime time television than trade shows. But it does apply to a special exhibit at NPE 2015.
As international concerns about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa rose to fever pitch last fall, plastics companies large and small stepped up with donations and ramped up production of personal protective equipment. Those products and more will be on display in the South Hall for the 60,000 expected visitors to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., courtesy of NPE organizers the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., and the Flexible Vinyl Alliance.
The Vinyl Saves Lives exhibit will demonstrate the role plastics, particularly PVC, plays in patient care. The exhibit also will showcase the protection of medical personnel with a full, portable medical isolation and containment unit, similar to those used in Africa and elsewhere in the fight to contain potential pandemics like Ebola and SARS.
Personal protective suits, masks and shoe covers will be on display, along with a wide range of vinyl medical devices and products.
“The plastics industry is ready to take a strong stand and demonstrate to the world that, indeed, vinyl is a great product that, among other things, is a dominant material used in hundreds and hundreds of medical and health care products and as a result, saves lives,” said SPI President and CEO Bill Carteaux in a news release about the exhibit.
Trade organizations including the Vinyl Institute and the Resilient Floor Covering Institute will be represented in the booth, along with health care groups. Experts will be on hand to answer questions throughout the show. The American Red Cross is also providing support, organizers said.
Though PVC is among the top three most widely produced and used polymers in the world and is used in more than one-third of the medical devices made every year, it is under attack by consumer and environmental groups. Disposal or recycling of PVC is difficult, even advocates admit, but campaigns generally targeting the phthalate plasticizers that make PVC more flexible have put the polymer in the cross-hairs, regardless of scientific study or the industry-wide phasing out of certain phthalates.
“The message we want to convey is that PVC actually saves lives around the world,” said Terry Peters, SPI's senior director for technical and industry affairs. “Without PVC, few if any material alternatives exist to enable medical products to perform as well as they do.”
Organizers hope that, through education and advocacy, the industry can work together to stop the spread of misinformation and show off PVC's positive role in medicine — not just during pandemics or viral scares, but in everyday medicine.
“While some of the best-known, but often unrecognized uses of PVC include wire and cable jacketing, medical tubing, blood bags, roofing, flooring and wall coverings, the material is suitable for an almost limitless range of products offering superior and proven performance characteristics, particularly in health care settings, that are essential to patient safety and survival, as we deal with pandemic containment and protecting the general population,” said Kevin Ott, executive director of the Flexible Vinyl Alliance.