‘Philippine hospitals not good for health’–expert

By Jocelyn Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:15:00 05/27/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Hospitals in the Philippines may not be good for your health, warned a UK-based scientist visiting the country.

Unknown to many, medical devices made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic such as IV bags and tubing, examination gloves, hospital flooring and plastic food wrap contain phthalates — chemicals that can damage the liver, kidneys and lungs and can also cause birth defects, especially among males.

This is according to Ruth Stringer, international science and policy coordinator for Health Care Without Harm.

Health Care Without Harm, says its website, is an international coalition of 473 organizations in more than 50 countries working to transform the health care sector so it is no longer a source of harm to people and the environment.

Stringer is also former deputy head of environmental group Greenpeace International’s science unit.

Stringer said medical devices made of flexible PVC can leach the phthalate DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate) into patients.

Citing studies in Europe and the United States, exposure to DEHP has been linked to severe health problems, including infertility, immune system damage, impaired childhood development, hormone disruption and cancer.

Patients may be harmed when exposed to DEHP leaks from PVC medical devices, Stringer said in a press conference on Monday.

Animal studies, she noted, had documented that the developing male reproductive system was the most sensitive to DEHP exposure.

Stringer said that a recent study found a link between prenatal exposure to DEHP and reproductive changes in boys while another found that higher concentrations of phthalates in breast milk may decrease sex hormone concentrations in baby boys.

“Studies have shown that exposure to high levels of phthalates lower levels of sex hormones and they [target] the testicles,” said Stringer, who arrived in the country on 20 on a three-week study.

While medical establishments in the United States and Europe have started to take action against vinyl products — including the proper labeling of plastic products and resorting to other alternatives — doctors and health care experts in the Philippines have yet to become aware of its hazards, she said.

Last week, Stringer visited three hospitals in Metro Manila, where she found “many” PVC products that could “easily be replaced.”

She identified these hospitals as San Lazaro Hospital, Philippine Children’s Medical Center and Philippine Heart Center.

She said there were alternative plastic medical devices that hospitals could use such as those made from polyethylene, polypropylene, polyurethane, silicone, ethylene, vinyl acetate and multi-layer laminate plastics.

She also urged lawmakers to push for a bill making mandatory the labeling of plastic materials to properly guide consumers.


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