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Why medical plastic packaging is so important

Healthcare workers risk their lives every day. They are exposed to viruses and serious – even deadly – diseases while they are at work. As a result of this possible exposure, healthcare workers and their patients must be protected. One substance that offers protection against viruses and other illnesses is medical plastic and packaging.

Medical plastic – what is it made of?

From packaging for medical devices to pill bottles, plastics are a necessity for ensuring the safety of both healthcare workers and patients. They ensure that medical devices are clean and protected. Plastics are inert, so they do not interact with the device or drug. This medical equipment, in return, does not expose humans to infections, disease or contamination.

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) has been used in the medical realm for more than 50 years and is essential to healthcare worker and patient safety. It is used to produce IV tubing as well as blood bags, both of which are essential for safe medical care. PVC is a commonly used plastic containing carbon, hydrogen and chlorine. 

Types of medical plastic packaging

Medical packaging:

  • IV bags and tubing
  • Blister packs
  • Polyolefin formable film for steam sterilization
  • Tubing packaging
  • Diagnostic device packaging

Drug packaging:

  • Veterinary and human medicine dispensers
  • Serum vials
  • Prescription bottles

Testing of medical packaging before it is marketed

The plastics in medical packaging, as well as the finished packages themselves, undergo a series of rigorous tests. This is to establish the safety and suitability of its intended use. Such tests often include physicochemical examinations, tests for extractables and biological reactivity tests. In addition, for some applications, biocompatibility tests such as irritation, sensitisation and cytotoxicity tests may also be performed.

Capturing recycled medical packages

The Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council supplies guidelines on the recycling of plastics. To learn how to pick a recycling strategy, hospitals can reference the readiness assessment. Hospicycle is a guide devised to help hospitals successfully integrate recycling practices and better understand the resourcing, economic, regulatory and infrastructure aspects that accompany it. This step-by-step approach assists hospitals to devise, set in place and optimize recycling programmes.

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Written by Riana Wiechers

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