We often think of “health” from a clinical perspective: health care providers, diet, disease prevention, wellbeing. But what if “health” meant hope for a cleaner future?
In 1970, congress established the Clean Air Act and made revisions in 1977 and 1990. The Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to set quality air standards and minimize pollution, including greenhouse gasses.
In 1975, the 3M Pollution Prevention Pays (3P) program was created. Since its inception, the 3P program has prevented more than 2.66 million short tons of pollutants and saved over $2.30 billion USD.
Let’s look at one example of how this came to life in 3M Health Care.
The 3M Medical Solutions Division (MSD) manufactures medical tapes using a variety of chemical methods. The manufacturing method matters, because it can create emissions. Cleaner operations can help curb emissions.
Medical adhesives are commonly created with solvent-based polymers. The polymers disperse in a solvent and, when the solvent evaporates, the polymers harden into an adhesive. The biproducts are burned – creating carbon dioxide that pollutes the atmosphere.
One might ask why solvent-based adhesives were created in the first place.
Brian Spiewak, Global Laboratory Manager at 3M, has a hypothesis: “it was easier.” Viscous organic polymers readily dissolve in organic solvent, and the resulting solution is easily coated onto a substrate to form a tape.
Thanks to continued research, our knowledge of emissions and ozone depletion has evolved – along with a commitment to ensure cleaner manufacturing methods.
Since 1985, MSD has been working to develop products that utilize hot melt (solvent-free) adhesives. Hot melt adhesives are 100 percent solid and can be melted in an extruder and coated onto a substrate. It’s like using a hot glue gun at home. Because no solvent is needed, no solvent biproducts are created and solvent-based emissions are eliminated. Today, most new 3M medical tapes and dressings are manufactured without the use of organic solvents using either hot melt or water-based adhesives.
The team continues to monitor manufacturing methods using a sustainability lens. They turn to science, creativity and collaboration to create more sustainable solutions.
“We do it,” Brian explains, “because preserving our environment for future generations is the right thing to do.”
Learn More: 3M™ Micropore™ S surgical tape