Study verifies importance of vinyl upholstery for infection control

CLEVELAND --- A recent study that shows the bacteria-resistant benefits of vinyl upholstery in healthcare facilities comes as no surprise to members of the Chemical Fabrics & Film Association (CFFA) Decorative Products Division.

Manufacturers of vinyl upholstery fabric have long known that their materials are easier to clean and disinfect than fabric upholstery, making it easier for hospitals to prevent the spread of infection-causing bacteria from one patient to another.

An article in the August 2000 issue of the American Journal of Infection Control reported the results of a study conducted by scientists at the Departments of Medicine and Pathology at Northwestern University Medical School, the Infection Control and Prevention Department, and the Prevention Epicenter, Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

The study found that vancomycin-enterococci (VRE), a drug-resistant bacteria, can survive on and be transmitted through patient contact with fabric upholstery in a healthcare setting. This means that a patient carrying these bacteria could contaminate a chair, for example, and a second patient could pick up the bacteria as much as one week later through direct contact with the chair's upholstery.

However, while vinyl chairs in the test were contaminated with VRE, the bacteria did not survive routine cleaning of the vinyl upholstery. This led the researchers to conclude that an easily cleanable, nonporous material such as vinyl can be significant for infection control in healthcare settings.

The research highlights the importance of being able to disinfect a patient's room when he or she leaves the hospital. "Vinyl upholstery and wallcovering have long been the materials of choice in a healthcare setting because they are easy to clean, durable and attractive," according to Fred Frohlich of Proquinal S.A., a manufacturer of vinyl upholstery fabrics and chairman of CFFA's Decorative Products Division. "Vinyl also is available in many patterns, colors and textures to add to the warmth of patient rooms, helping them feel more at home," he added. Proquinal and other members of CFFA specialize in vinyl upholstery fabrics for use in offices, restaurants, waiting rooms, medical centers, clinics, auditoriums, hospitals, airports and convention centers.

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