Plastics Expert on 60 Minutes Says PP is not Biocompatible

Jane Akre
May 15, 2018
Chris DeArmitt, polymer scientist

Mesh Medical Device News Desk, May 15, 2018 ~ Mesh News Desk wanted to chat with plastics expert, Chris DeArmitt, who appeared on camera on the 60 Minutes story from Sunday, May 13th.

Mesh News Desk reports that polypropylene (PP) mesh, whether sourced from China or Texas, has inherent properties that once placed permanently, appear to undergo changes.  We asked plastics expert DeArmitt of Phantom Plastics , what they are.

Q. What is your reaction to the piece?

A. I am happy that CBS has made people aware of these serious issues.

Q. Some have expressed disappointment it didn't go far enough.

A. 60 Minutes is a short format show, so they only had time to explain one topic in any detail. There is plenty of information available for people who want to learn more.

Q. Isn’t all mesh made from PP?

A. The majority of mesh is made from polypropylene but other polymers are used as well. Examples include PET, PTFE (a type of Teflon(r)) and PVDF.

Image from 60 Minutes

Q. Wouldn’t the same conclusions apply to all mesh?

A. Well, each polymer has it’s own pros and cons so no, the same conclusions do not apply to all mesh.

Q. Well, do the conclusions apply to all PP mesh?

A. No. Polypropylene is infamous for being unstable. It is attacked readily by oxygen, even at room temperature or body temperature. That is well proven and I go into great detail about that in my expert reports. How long the PP will last in any application depends on the amount and type of antioxidant (stabilizer) in the PP. It was stated that the original Marlex mesh mentioned on the program did not contain anywhere near enough stabilizer to last for decades in the body and that the new PP from China contains significantly less stabilizer than their original Marlex PP mesh did.

Phillips Petroleum ad for Marlex plastic

It should be noted that all Marlex mesh is not the same. Some manufactures choose to add a significant amount of stabilizer to make their mesh last longer before it degrades.

Q. Are you aware that women are told today the mesh is different? Is it?

A. Yes, mesh today is generally different than mesh from the past. For example, PP mesh is known to cause a reaction in the body and that is undesirable. The less PP there is, the less severe the reaction is (on average) so the focus has been on using PP mesh that’s lighter weight, i.e. contains less PP. Older meshes also had smaller pores and it was found that larger pores (holes in the weave) are better for the body so there has been a move to larger pores over recent years. In addition, there are coated PP meshes where the coating is designed to reduce reaction in the body. Unfortunately, despite all these advances, the most common mesh is still uncoated PP which has been reported to cause a chronic reaction in the body that can lead to discomfort and pain.

Q. So it's really up to the woman, in the case of gynecologic, or men with hernia mesh, to ask the question when the doctor says its "different" - How is it different?  Is it still polypropylene?

A. People should ask what type of mesh is being used and whether there is a viable alternative procedure that does not use mesh at all. Consult with a medical professional then get a second and even a third opinion.

Q. Can we say that PP is NOT biocompatible with the human body in a general sense?

A. Yes, we can say that PP is not biocompatible. There are many peer-reviewed article to prove that.  ###


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Chris DeArmitt PhD FRSC
Phantom Plastics

Cincinnati, OH

+1 (601) 620 8080 mobile

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