The topic of global climate change has gotten a lot of publicity lately. In fact, former vice president Al Gore’s documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, recently won an Academy Award for its description of the effects of greenhouse gases on the environment.
In the movie, Gore predicts dire consequences resulting from global warming. He claims that if the trend continues, deaths resulting from it will reach 300,000 in 25 years. He also says that more than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by 2050 from its effects.
Those are pretty ominous statistics—if you believe them. To be fair, there are also a lot of serious-minded people who have reservations about the theory of global warming.
But whatever you believe, it’s hard to argue with the benefits of decreasing our impact on the environment and reducing the amount of waste going to landfills.
The inconvenient truth is that the medical device industry and its suppliers could be and need to be doing more.
One example of what suppliers could be doing is seen from metal fabricator, Fotofab (Chicago; www.fotofab.com). The company has developed new methods to extend the effective life of its process chemicals, while at the same time reducing the amount of wastewater that it generates. Instead of treating and putting into landfills its spent chemicals, the company recycles them. Both scrap metal and scrap photographic film are recycled, so that the silver can be reclaimed rather than dumped.
Another way manufacturers can reduce impact on the environment is by creating new devices that are environmentally friendly to replace earlier models.
For example, billions of needle syringes are not recycled each year. But a team from Polytechnique de Montreal (Montreal) has developed a “smart” hypodermic needle made from a biocompatible fiber. The porous, double-core device can perform both sensing and drug-delivery roles. The fiber is environmentally friendly due to its biodegradable properties.
According to the researchers, the fiber can be impregnated with pharmaceutical compounds for release during treatment and gaps within the microstructured device provide a pathway for transferring fluids.
When creating or improving medical devices, designers need to think about the eventual impact on the environment.
This month MPMN devotes an entire section to covering other emerging technologies like the smart hypodermic needle.