Plastics have paved the way for many medical breakthroughs since they were introduced after World Word II. Many different polymers are used in healthcare, but polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC or vinyl, is the single most used plastic with a market share of nearly 30%. Why is it that PVC has become the polymer of choice for medical devices, flooring, wall covering, and a range of other products used in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities? 

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Proven safety

PVC has been safely used in disposable medical device applications for over 70 years. European Pharmacopoeia monographs apply to PVC for use in disposable applications.
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Extensive versatility

PVC is used in a wide variety of medical applications such as tubing, oxygen masks and blood bags. PVC is also used for mattress covers, rehabilitation aids, flooring, ceiling and wall coverings, pipes, windows, cables and much more in healthcare facilities.
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Widest range of benefits

PVC’s unique technical properties include biocompatibility, anti-kinking, excellent transparency, chemical resistance and easy sterilisation.
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Cost-effective

None of the alternatives to PVC in healthcare offer the same price-performance ratio. The cost of replacing PVC with alternative materials would equate a 30% price increase for medical devices.
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Continuous innovation

Ongoing industry research and innovation have expanded the range of safe plasticisers for medical applications.
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Recyclability

The VinylPlus® Med project demonstrates that disposable PVC medical devices can be turned into durable healthcare products.
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High compability

PVC is characterised by high biocompatibility, and this can be increased further by appropriate surface modi昀椀cation. PVC is also compatible with virtually all pharmaceutical products in healthcare facilities today.
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Design freedom

Vinyl, another word for PVC, gives architects endless design options for hospital interiors, making them more welcoming for all.
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Low-carbon material

PVC has a low carbon footprint since it is made from 57% salt, 5% hydrogen and 38% ethylene from oil or natural gas. Bio-attributed and bio-circular PVC as well as non-fossil based additives are also available on the market.
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Ease of processing

PVC is easy to process with all common plastic converting technologies.
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Did you know PVC was discovered more than 100 years ago?

Polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC or vinyl, is one of the oldest plastics. The story of PVC begins in the 19th century with two accidental discoveries. In 1838, French physicist and chemist Henri Victor Regnault, and later in 1872, German chemist Eugen Baumann, observed the formation of a white solid within flasks containing vinyl chloride gas exposed to sunlight. This early form of PVC, however, proved difficult to manipulate and its commercial potential remained unexplored.

It wasn't until 1913 that German inventor Friedrich Heinrich August Klatte (pictured on the right) patented a method for producing PVC, using sunlight to polymerise vinyl chloride. Yet, the real breakthrough came in the United States when BFGoodrich hired industrial scientist Waldo Semon. Tasked with finding a synthetic alternative to natural rubber, Semon's experiments led to the production of plasticised polyvinyl chloride. The first PVC water pipes were installed in Germany in the 1930s, many of which are still in use. In the medical field, PVC's first was the blood bag, invented in the 1950s.

Since then, PVC has remained the polymer of choice for an ever expanding array of life-saving medical applications that are safe, reliable and affordable.