Baxter International Inc. has announced plans to stop making intravenous bags from polyvinyl chloride because of concern over exposing patients to dangerous chemicals.
The announcement Tuesday follows the release of a study commissioned by several health groups that concluded that the chemical DEHP -- a possible carcinogen -- never fully bonds with polyvinyl chloride and can leach into fluids in IV bags.
"Plasticizers" such as DEHP make PVC flexible. Many of the nation's 500 million IV bags are made of PVC plastic and thus contain DEHP.
The classification of DEHP as a probable carcinogen is based on studies of animals given high doses. The Food and Drug Administration, however, said it is unclear whether hospital patients are exposed to sufficient quantities of DEHP to warrant concern.
In February, environmentalist groups such as Greenpeace and the Health Care Without Harm coalition began campaigning against the use of PVC for IVs, urging hospitals to use only IV bags made of other plastics.
Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is a plastic used widely in products ranging from shower curtains to medical devices. Environmentalists dislike it because the manufacture and incineration of PVC can cause dioxin pollution.
Deerfield-based Baxter, a major producer of medical supplies, did not address the concerns over PVC.
"In instances where the overall performance and safety of another material is proven superior to PVC and regulatory clearance is obtained, Baxter will offer an alternative," Baxter Vice President Jack McGinley said in a statement.