Even if medical-grade PVC is still a healthcare staple, the narrative on the use of PVC in medical applications has been driven largely by the prohibition crowd. The health impact of plasticisers leaching from the material into patients’ bodies has put the media spotlight squarely on PVC-alternative materials. PolyCine is out to change that dynamic. A supplier of flexible packaging products located in Schiffweiler, Germany, PolyCine GmbH has developed a processing technique that blocks migration of plasticisers from the material. I spoke with Head of Development Stefan Dröschel at Medica, where the company is introducing the technology.
The technique involves crosslinking with the PVC a small amount of another material that shall remain nameless for IP reasons, explains Dröschel. “We crosslink a very thin layer of this material to ensure that it does not affect the chemical properties of the PVC. In fact, it only has a very slight effect on material strength,” says Dröschel. You can’t really tell it’s there at all, he adds, unless you place the tubing under a light, in which case you might see a rainbow effect, sort of like the reflection you would see from an oil spill on a road. But just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not potent.
The company performed tests on treated and untreated 1-m long tubes that were filled, respectively, with isopropanol and blood. Elution of the DEHP and TEHTM plasticisers was measured over time. The difference in the elution rate of plasticisers from treated and untreated tubing is dramatic, especially over a four-hour period, which is the typical amount of time required for dialysis. Dröschel is happy to go over the results illustrated by graphs at the company’s stand in hall 7a (B05).
Still, a question remains: materials suppliers have been industriously developing PVC-alternative materials for years now, so why try to turn back the clock and rehabilitate a material that has been tarnished in the public eye? Don’t believe the hype, answers Dröschel: PVC is not going away any time soon. “It is the most copiously studied material, and it is the most affordable and flexible choice for many medical applications,” he says.
The company is on the verge of finalising the industrialisation process, and products fabricated from the material could be on the market as early as next year.Norbert Sparrow