So why limit your exposure to PVC?
No other plastic contains or releases as many dangerous chemicals. These include dioxins,
phthalates, vinyl chloride, ethylene dichloride, lead, cadmium, and organotins. There's no safe way to
manufacture, use or dispose of PVC products
In You and your food. As a persistent bioaccumulative toxin (PBT), it does not breakdown rapidly and travels around the globe, accumulating in fatty tissue and concentrating as it goes up the food chain. Dioxins from Louisiana manufacturing plants migrate on the winds and concentrate in Great Lakes fish. Dioxins are even found in hazardous concentrations in the tissues of whales and polar bears and in Inuit mother's breast milk. The dioxin exposure of the average American already poses a calculated risk of cancer of greater than 1 in 1,000 - thousands of times greater than the usual standard for acceptable risk. Really scary is that dioxins concentrate in breast milk to the point that human infants now receive high doses, orders of magnitude greater than those of the average adult.
air pollution near plants: In Mossville, Louisiana, air monitoring conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1999 showed concentrations of vinyl chloride more than 120 times higher than the ambient air standard.
working in plant: Studies have documented links between working in vinyl chloride production facilities and the increased likelihood of developing diseases including angiosarcoma of the liver, a rare form of liver cancer, brain cancer, lung cancer, lymphomas, leukemia, and liver cirrhosis.
The multitudes of additives required to make PVC useful make large scale post consumer recycling nearly impossible for most products and interfere with the recycling of other plastics. Of an estimated 7 billion pounds of PVC thrown away in the US, only 14 million - less than 1/2 of 1 percent - is recycled. The Association of Post Consumer Plastics Recyclers declared efforts to recycle PVC a failure and labeled it a contaminant in 1998. We tried. Learn more about how that went.
Although vinyl is in theory recyclable, there are currently no vinyl recycling programs available. The vast majority of PVCs end up in landfill or incinerated - and both are environmentally hazardous. Currently 0.1% to 3% of vinyl is recycled (mostly industrial waste) of the 2 billion and 4 billion pounds of PVC that is discarded in the US every year.
PVC poses a great risk in building fires, as it releases deadly gases long before it ignites, such as hydrogen chloride which turns to hydrochloric acid when inhaled. As it burns, whether accidentally or in waste incineration, it releases yet more toxic dioxins. PVC burning in landfill fires may now be the single largest source of dioxin releases to the environment. If you see the former entry about recycling, with the approximately 8400 landfill fires every year in the US, this is an issue.
What are Dioxins?
Types of Vinyl
Links to more information
Healthy Building Network
EPA Enforcement EPA regulates
Ecocycle on recycling
PVC Information dangers in making dangers in fire disposing of PVC
Center for Health, Environment and Justice.
PVC, the Poison Plastic – Unhealthy for Our Nation's Children and Schools: PDF | HTML
Our Health and PVC – What's the Connection?: PDF | HTML
PVC Flooring and Toxic Cleaning Products: PDF | HTML
Top Ten Reasons Your School Should Go PVC-Free: PDF | HTML
PVC & Environmental Justice: PDF | HTML
PVC Policies Around the World: PDF | HTML
Ted Talks: Diana Cohen: Tough Truths About Plastic Pollution
Ted Talks: Capt. Charles Moore on Seas of Plastic
Healthy Building Network
Vinyl Industry Sites