Nurses: Taking Precautionary Action on a Pediatric Environmental Exposure: DEHP

Anna Gilmore Hall


Pediatr Nurs. 2006;32(1):91-93. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP, is a chemical used to soften rigid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. Medical devices made of flexible PVC, such as intravenous (IV) bags and tubing, contain DEHP to make them pliable and soft. Animal studies show that exposure to DEHP can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system, particularly the developing testes of prenatal and neonatal males. Because of this, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a Public Health Notification on PVC devices containing DEHP, urging health care providers to use DEHP-free devices for certain vulnerable patients. Many hospitals and health systems have successfully transitioned away from use of DEHP, particularly in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).

June 9, 2005, The Los Angeles Times - "A new Harvard study of infants treated in neonatal intensive care units finds that a substance used in medical supplies shows up in babies' bodies. What's more, the substance shows up in those babies in roughly direct proportion to the amount to which the babies are exposed. The substance, dubbed "DEHP," is a chemical used in PVC plastic products that has been shown to cause testicular damage in animal studies."

As a pediatric nurse, are you aware of the health risks associated with DEHP-containing medical devices, and do you know what the alternatives are?

Prenatal and neonatal children are two of the most vulnerable populations to receive health care. Every day, nurses do everything in our power to ensure that our most vulnerable patients are protected from harm. When chemicals and materials used in the delivery of health care are linked to adverse health effects, protecting these ultra-vulnerable populations is of particular concern. Learn about just such an instance, and the safer alternatives that are available, below.


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