Companies partner to manufacture and donate respirators

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Dr. John Froggatt III, left, of Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph, receives the first box of PAPR units donated by Whirlpool Corporation, Dow and Reynolds Consumer Products from Christian Gianni, president of WIN Health Labs and VP of technology for Whirlpool. Courtesy Whirlpool Corporation

Whirlpool, Dow and Reynolds Consumer Products teamed up on a joint project to provide much-needed respirators for health care workers fighting COVID-19.

Benton Harbor-based Whirlpool Corporation said last month it partnered with Midland-based Dow and Lake Forest, Illinois-based Reynolds Consumer Products to manufacture and donate/sell respirators for frontline workers fighting the spread of COVID-19.

“We recognize the bravery and commitment of health care workers throughout this crisis,” said Marc Bitzer, chair and CEO of Whirlpool. “Working with Dow and Reynolds, we are honored to provide this critical equipment to frontline health care workers to help them protect themselves and their patients while they battle this pandemic.”

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

“We are using our supply of N95 masks and respirators at a rate 10 times higher than normal,” said Dr. Loren Hamel, president of Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph. “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 (PPE) created by the joint team is a powered, air-purifying respirator, or PAPR, which takes the place of a traditional medical mask and visor and features a replaceable polyethylene hood. The clear hoods are designed to be flexible and comfortable and can be replaced quickly between patients.

“Volunteers within each of the companies began reaching out to local health care providers to inquire how they could be helpful,” said Christian Gianni, president of WIN Health Labs and VP of technology for Whirlpool Corporation.

“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.”

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

“This collaboration is a testament to the private sector’s continued commitment and quick actions to work across industries to innovate health care solutions at a time of unprecedented need,” said Jim Fitterling, chair and CEO of Dow. “Team Dow is proud to be a part of this effort and to continue to contribute our time, talent and material science expertise in the fight against COVID-19.”

About 2,000 units were produced in the first phase for donation to hospitals in regions where Whirlpool and Dow have operations, as well as other hospitals in need of PPE.

To get the PPE to as many health care providers as possible, the Hefty team committed to donating the first 1 million hoods.

“We are pleased to be able to contribute to this solution to provide PPE that is both safe and effective. Supplies will be available so they can use a fresh barrier as needed,” said Lance Mitchell, CEO of Reynolds Consumer Products.

The respirator meets guidelines set forth by the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization authority, which allows the agency to quickly facilitate the availability and use of medical countermeasures needed during public health emergencies.

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