Whirlpool, Dow, Reynolds team up to make respirators

BENTON HARBOR—The appliance maker Whirlpool Corp., Midland chemical giant Dow Chemical and Lake Forest, Ill.-based Reynolds Consumer Products have announced a collaboration to provide much-needed respirators to the healthcare workers on the front lines of fighting COVID-19.

The joint project is a protective piece of headgear and respirator system that will be manufactured and sold through Whirlpool subsidiary WIN Health Labs LLC, in addition to an initial donation to hospitals.

In the photo above, John Froggatt III, MD, of Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph, receives the first box of PAPR units donated by Whirlpool, Dow, and Reynolds Consumer Products from Christian Gianni, president of WIN Health Labs and vice president of technology for Whirlpool. Froggatt is an infectious disease specialist and has been practicing for 31 years.

“We are using our supply of N95 masks and respirators at a rate 10 times higher than normal,” said Loren B. Hamel, MD, president of Spectrum Health Lakeland. “These are some of the most critical medical supplies to help ensure the safety of frontline workers who are often in direct contact with patients infected with the virus.”

The personal protective equipment created by the joint team is a powered, air-purifying respirator (PAPR), which takes the place of a traditional medical mask and visor and features a replaceable polyethylene hood. The clear hoods are both flexible and comfortable, and can quickly be replaced between patients.

Each of the companies was looking for ways to help, and through those efforts this unique collaboration was born.

“Volunteers within each of the companies began reaching out to local healthcare providers to inquire how they could be helpful,” Gianni said. “In order to accelerate the design process, we created a virtual, agile team that was able to go from paper to approved product in just seven weeks. Through this unique relationship and a huge amount of effort by a very talented group of people, we are now manufacturing respirators and are in a position to help our frontline healthcare providers.”

Whirlpool designed, manufactured and assembled the headset. Dow provided the polyethylene resin for the hoods, and Reynolds Consumer Products, makers of Hefty brand, designed and produced the disposable hood. Volkswagen of America brokered connections with materials and supply chain partners to source critical components.

Two thousand units are being produced in the first phase for donation to hospitals located in regions where Whirlpool and Dow have operations, as well as other hospitals in need of PPE. To get the needed PPE to as many healthcare providers as possible, the Hefty team is donating the first 1 million hoods.

The response to COVID-19 is ongoing and will be for some time, according to Nicki Britten, health officer for the Berrien County Health Department: “Without the needed PPE for our essential healthcare workers, we will continue to see further spread of the virus, ultimately resulting in more lives lost due to COVID-19.”

The respirator is in production and is made available in a shortened time frame under guidelines set forth by the Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization authority, which allows the agency to facilitate the availability and use of medical countermeasures needed during public health emergencies.

More about the PAPR at WINHealthlabs.com.

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