Chemical Industry Pioneers Healthcare, Enhances Public Health
Chemical industry pioneering healthcare, enhancing public health
By Hector Rivero, President & CEO, Texas Chemical Council
This article originally appeared in BIC Magazine
The chemical industry has played a pivotal role in shaping modern healthcare, revolutionizing medical advances, enhancing sanitation and ensuring safety through sterilization and equipment.
Its indispensable contributions have not only saved millions of lives but have also paved the way for a healthier and safer society.
Sanitation and hygiene
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the discovery and widespread production of chemical agents like chlorine and iodine revolutionized sanitation practices. These chemicals are crucial in disinfecting water supplies, surfaces and medical equipment, significantly reducing the spread of infectious diseases. Clean water and sanitary conditions are fundamental pillars of modern healthcare and the chemical industry has been at the forefront of this progress.
Additionally, plastics have revolutionized medical packaging and supplies, ensuring the integrity and sterility of medical products. Plastic wraps and pouches protect medical instruments, implants and disposables from contamination. Many medical supplies such as syringes, gloves, masks and blood bags owe much to plastics as they reduce the risk of cross-contamination and infection transmission, making them essential in maintaining patient safety.
Sterilization is an essential process in healthcare settings to prevent the transmission of infections. The chemical industry provides the medical community with various sterilization techniques, such as ethylene oxide sterilization and hydrogen peroxide vapor, ensuring that medical instruments, devices and surgical equipment are free from harmful microorganisms.
Medical equipment and materials
The chemical industry has contributed to the development of advanced medical equipment and materials that aid in diagnosis, treatment and patient care.
Intravenous (IV) therapy is a cornerstone of modern healthcare, providing a direct pathway for medication administration, fluid replacement and nutrition delivery. Plastics are extensively used in the production of IV bags, infusion sets and connectors due to their ability to maintain sterility, flexibility and compatibility with a wide range of medications.
Plastics have also facilitated the development of lightweight, durable and biocompatible medical devices and implants. For instance, prosthetic limbs made from advanced plastics offer enhanced mobility and comfort for amputees, allowing them to lead more fulfilling lives. Additionally, plastics are widely used in surgical tools, catheters and tubing, providing flexible, disposable and cost-effective solutions for various medical procedures.
Personal Protective Equipment
During global health crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of PPE becomes apparent. The chemical industry plays a critical role in the production of PPE like masks, gloves, gowns and face shields. This protective gear safeguards healthcare workers, patients and the general public, reducing the risk of transmission of infectious agents.
Wound dressings and bandages
Plastic-based wound dressings and bandages have significantly improved wound care and accelerated the healing process. These dressings provide a protective barrier against external contaminants while allowing the wound to breathe and heal. Advanced dressings incorporating hydrogels and other plastic materials promote a moist wound environment, reducing scarring and promoting tissue regeneration.
The chemical industry has been instrumental in supporting and shaping modern healthcare, making it possible to combat diseases, maintain sanitation, ensure sterilization, develop advanced medical equipment and provide critical PPE. The contributions of the business of chemistry have profoundly impacted public health and quality of life as the products of chemistry are indispensable components of the healthcare system.