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Why Should You Care?

Dioxin (the most potent carcinogen known), vinyl chloride and other chemicals are unavoidably created in production of PVC and can cause severe health problems, including: Cancer Endocrine disruption Endometriosis Neurological damage Birth defects & impaired child development Reproductive and immune system damage

Every year, tens of thousands of workers are exposed to vinyl chloride in gas or liquid form. There are a number of industries that use vinyl chloride in the manufacturing process, including: Building and construction Medical supplies Rubber manufacturers Paper manufacturers Glass manufacturers Automotive industry Industrial and household equipment manufacturers Furniture manufacturers Manufacturers of plastic

In the US, PVC is manufactured predominantly near low-income communities in Texas and Louisiana. The toxic impact of pollution from these factories on these communities has made them a focus in the environmental justice movement. According to the Environmental Working Group website; Over a 15-year period: workers were exposed to levels of vinyl chloride that were known to cause injury and not told; scientists were pressured to rewrite publications; manufacturers and beauticians were kept in the dark about vinyl chloride in hair spray and the potential devastating risks; information was withheld from government health officials; health exams were given under false pretense to keep workers in the dark about what was happening to them; studies were terminated to avoid producing damaging evidence; and pacts of silence were agreed to and executed.

Today, thirty years after the industry first learned that vinyl chloride caused cancer, workers are still dying, and many people -including an untold number of beauty shop workers in the 1960s and 1970s- remain unaware that they were heavily exposed for years to a highly hazardous, potentially deadly substance. PVC is useless without the addition of a plethora of toxic chemical stabilizers - such as lead, cadmium and organotins - and phthalate plasticizers. These leach, flake or outgas from PVC over time raising risks that include asthma, lead poisoning and cancer. 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. A 2002 Rand report for the U.S. Air Force identified chlorine gas storage and transport facilities as among the top chemical targets for a terrorist attack and cited examples of a number of such threats and attacks already carried out around the world. As a prime feedstock for PVC, chlorine makes the PVC manufacturing plants and the trains that supply them highly vulnerable. A simple terrorist attack could release a toxic cloud that would spread for miles, potentially endangering millions of lives. The best security is to switch to safer materials that don't require chlorine. PVC production is the biggest single use of chlorine and so reduction in its use represents the largest single step we can take to reduce the risk of chlorine disasters, accidental or intentional.

Proven and Probable Carcinogens.

The EPA has classified vinyl chloride as a Group A, human carcinogen. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has determined that vinyl chloride is a known carcinogen. Studies in workers who have breathed vinyl chloride over many years showed an increased risk of liver, brain, lung cancer, and some cancers of the blood have also been observed in workers. Inhaled vinyl chloride has been shown to increase the risk of a rare form of liver cancer (angiosarcoma of the liver) in humans and it is one of two known causes of brain cancer.

Sources, Occurrence and Pollution History

Polyvinyl chloride is the third most widely produced plastic, after polyethylene and polypropylene. PVC is widely used in construction because it is cheap, durable, and easily worked. Over 14 billion pounds of PVC are currently produced per year in North America. Approximately 75% of all PVC manufactured is used in construction materials. PVC production is expected to exceed 40 million tonnes by 2016. Roughly half of the world's polyvinyl chloride resin manufactured annually is used for producing pipes for various municipal and industrial applications. In the United States and Canada, PVC pipes account for the largest majority of pipe materials used in buried municipal applications for drinking water distribution and wastewater mains. Toxin chemicals are given off throughout the PVC cycle during manufacturing, use and disposal as shown by the chart below. Fires both accidental and deliberate (landfills) are one of the principal sources of dioxin in the environment


Vinyl chloride used in PVC is a synthetic (man-made) chemical never found in nature. Vinyl chloride is produced on a substantial scale - approximately 31.1 million tons were produced in 2000. Some very hazardous wastes are generated in the production of vinyl chloride. Due to the hazardous nature of vinyl chloride to human health there are no end products that use vinyl chloride in its monomer form. Polyvinyl chloride is very stable, storable, and nowhere near as acutely hazardous as the monomer. In flake or pellet form PVC is sold to companies that heat and mold the PVC into end products such as PVC pipe and bottles. Tens of billions of pounds of PVC are sold on the global market each year. Until 1974, vinyl chloride was used in aerosol spray propellant. Prior to the removal of vinyl chloride from hair spray the accumulation of vinyl chloride vapor in hair salons may have exceeded the NOAEL (No Observable Adverse Effect Level) exposure guidelines. PVC USES (PERCENTAGE) Vinyl chloride was also briefly used as an inhalational anesthetic, in a similar vein to ethyl chloride, though its toxicity forced this practice to be abandoned.


Fire and explosion hazard

OSHA lists VINYL CHLORIDE MONOMER (VCM) as a Class IA Flammable Liquid, with a National Fire Protection Association Flammability Rating of 4. Because of its low boiling point, liquid VCM will undergo flash evaporation (i. e., autorefrigerate) upon its release to atmospheric pressure. The portion vaporized will form a dense cloud (more than twice as heavy as the surrounding air). The risk of subsequent explosion or fire is significant. According to OSHA, the flash point of VCM is -78 C (-108 F). Its flammable limits in air are: lower 3.6 volume % and upper 33.0 volume %. Fire may release toxic hydrogen chloride (HCl) and carbon monoxide (CO.) Fires can also produce deadly dioxin from PVC. Whenever possible avoid the symbol 3 on plastics and choose 2 or 4 alternatives

Pollution History
STONY BROOK, NEW YORK September 26, 1986 Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) were detected in soot from a building fire involving PVC and a source of chlorine. The fire occurred in the early morning hours in an internal room of an unoccupied lecture center building at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. The investigation and cleanup that followed resulted in the detection of dioxins and furans in the deposited soot. The fire started in a concrete room which was being used as a storeroom for custodial supplies and was extinguished approximately one hour after it started. It was reported that the fire consumed 20 boxes of abrasive floor scrubbing pads, trash bags, PVC floor tiles, quaternary ammonium chloride cleaning solution, part of a desk, a chair, a wooden platform structure, and paper products. Intense heat melted several stacks of plastic chairs, a plastic waste container, a plastic covering on a stereo set, and electrical wiring in a circuit box. Due to discomfort experienced by students who used the lecture hall in the post-fire environment, an extensive series of environmental tests were taken. Results showed dioxins and furans and resulted in the closing of the hall for cleanup. Although sampling for dioxins and furans did not take place until several months after the date of the fire, the results for 2,3,7,8-TCDD Equivalents were 3.4 ng/gram (EPA) and 5.9 ng/gram (New York State).

Symptoms Acute
According to the ATSDR Toxic profile for Vinyl Chloride, Acute (short-term) exposure to high levels of vinyl chloride in air has resulted in
central nervous system effects (CNS), such as dizziness, drowsiness, and headaches in humans.

If you breathe high levels of vinyl chloride, you will feel dizzy, giddy or sleepy. Vinyl chloride is reported to be slightly irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract in humans. These effects occur within 5 minutes if you are exposed to about 10,000 ppm of vinyl chloride. You can easily smell vinyl chloride at this concentration. It has a mild, sweet odor. If you breathe still higher levels (25,000 ppm), you may pass out. You can rapidly recover from these effects if you breathe fresh air. Some people get a headache when they breathe fresh air immediately after breathing very high levels of vinyl chloride. Some men who work with vinyl chloride have complained of a lack of sex drive. People who breathe extremely high levels of vinyl chloride can die.

Regulated Threshold limits for Vinyl Chloride in Air Regulatory Threshold Definitions
ACGIH TLV--American Conference of Governmental and Industrial Hygienists' threshold limit value expressed as a time-weighted average; the concentration of a substance to which most workers can be exposed without adverse effects. LC50 (Lethal Concentration50)--A calculated concentration of a chemical in air to which exposure for a specific length of time is expected to cause death in 50% of a defined experimental animal population. OSHA PEL--Occupational Safety and Health Administration's permissible exposure limit expressed as a time-weighted average: the concentration of a substance to which most workers can be exposed without adverse effect averaged over a normal 8-h workday or a 40-h workweek. OSHA PEL ceiling value--OSHA's permissible exposure limit ceiling value; the concentration of a substance that should not be exceeded at any time.

Effects on Children A 2008 study found an association between concentrations of phthalates in indoor dust and wheezing among preschool children. A study published in 2009 found a statistically significant link between PVC flooring, asthma, and autism spectrum disorder. The study found that children who live in homes with vinyl floors, which can emit phthalates, are twice as likely to have autism.


Chronic (long-term) exposure to vinyl chloride through inhalation and oral exposure in humans has resulted in liver damage. Cancer is a major concern from exposure to vinyl chloride via inhalation, as vinyl chloride exposure has been shown to increase the risk of a rare form of liver cancer (angiosarcoma) in humans Studies of workers who have breathed vinyl chloride over many years showed an increased risk for cancer of the liver. Brain cancer, lung cancer, and some cancers of the blood also may be connected with breathing vinyl chloride over long periods. A small percentage of individuals occupationally exposed to high levels of vinyl chloride in air have developed a set of symptoms termed "vinyl chloride disease," which is characterized by Raynaud's phenomenon (fingers blanch and numbness and discomfort are experienced upon exposure to the cold), changes in the bones at the end of the fingers, joint and muscle pain, and scleroderma-like skin changes (thickening of the skin, decreased elasticity, and slight edema). According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "vinyl chloride emissions from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), ethylene dichloride (EDC), and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) plants cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to result in an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible illness. Vinyl chloride is a known human carcinogen that causes a rare cancer of the liver." EPA's 2001 updated Toxicological Profile and Summary Health Assessment for VCM in its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) database lowers EPA's previous risk factor estimate by a factor of 20 and concludes that "because of the consistent evidence for liver cancer in all the studies...and the weaker association for other sites, it is concluded that the liver is the most sensitive site, and protection against liver cancer will protect against possible cancer induction in other tissues. Several case reports suggest that male sexual performance may be affected by vinyl chloride. However, these studies are limited by lack of quantitative exposure information and possible co-occurring exposure to other chemicals. Several epidemiological studies have reported an association between vinyl chloride exposure in pregnant women and an increased incidence of birth defects, while other studies have not reported similar findings. Epidemiological studies have suggested an association between men occupationally exposed to vinyl chloride and miscarriages in their wives' pregnancies although other studies have not supported these findings. No studies are available that specifically address chronic effects of vinyl chloride in children.


Vinyl Chloride is a colorless compound which is an important industrial chemical chiefly used to produce the polymer polyvinyl chloride (PVC). At ambient pressure and temperature, vinyl chloride is a gas with a sickly sweet odor. It is highly toxic, flammable and carcinogenic. Vinyl chloride was first produced in 1835. In 1912, Frans, a German chemist working for Griesheim-Elektron, patented a means to produce vinyl chloride from acetylene and hydrogen chloride using mercuric chloride as a catalyst. Whereas this method was widely used during the 1930s and 1940s, it has since been superseded by more economical processes based on ethylene, at least in the West. It remains the main production in China.

Map Distribution



There are currently 16 major and one area source of PVC production facilities in eight states, Delaware (one), Illinois (one), Kentucky (one), Louisiana (six), Michigan (one), Mississippi (one), New Jersey (two), and Texas (four). An additional 520 Superfund sites releasing Vinyl Chloride are on the National Priority List for cleanup. Since liver cancer has been associated with vinyl chloride exposure in male workers, we overlay the Liver Cancer, etc. death rates by county whenever possible. Unfortunately, there is sparse data (shown in grey) throughout most of the areas of interest.

Toxic Release Inventory and Superfund Sites Overlain to Liver Cancer in Males (Highest Death Rates are in Blue)


Case Studies

Toxic Release Inventory and Superfund Sites Overlain to Liver Cancer in Males (Highest Death Rates are in Blue)


Mossville, Louisiana,

Map of Vinyl Chloride plants and Residential Neighborhoods

Houses for Sale Due to Vinyl Pollution

With its four vinyl production facilities, including two major vinyl chloride manufacturers, Mossville is considered the unofficial PVC capital of America. In Mossville, blood tests have shown residents have dioxin levels three times the national average, and the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) found elevated dioxins in breast milk and high cancer death rates. 15

A university of Texas Health Survey revealed that 99% of the 96 people surveyed reported having at least one symptom in the categories of illness related to exposure to the chemicals produced by area petrochemical plants. Eighty-four percent of the 96 respondents reported having nervous system problems such as frequent headaches, dizziness, seizures and short-term memory loss. 71% percent reported having problems with their cardiovascular system such as high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, heart disease and stroke. 57% reported having skin problems such as eczema, unusual rashes, red spots and hives. 55% reported having immune system problems such as frequent colds, allergies, brittle hair and hair loss. According to the survey, Mossville residents suffered from illnesses related to chemical exposure 2-3 times higher than that of a control group in every one of the 12 body system categories. The people of Calcasieu Parish are dying from heart disease, a disease that is linked to environmental toxins, at a rate of 310.5 per a population of 100,000 while the people of the state of Louisiana are dying from heart disease at a rate of 292 per 100,000 population. The rate of heart disease deaths in Calcasieu Parish is 2.5 times higher than the national average, which is 152 per a population of 100,000. The State of Louisiana is 1.9 times higher than the national average for deaths from heart disease. The average rate of cancer deaths is 1.6 times higher in Calcasieu Parish than the national average.) As of January 2011, the area did not rank as a Superfund site and was not included on the EPA National Priority List. However, according to the May 2011 EPA Site Inspection Report, Plumes from the SASOL facility which underlie the Area of Interest contain 1,2-dichloroethane, 1,1dichloroethene, 1,1,2-trichloroethane, trichloroethene, 1,1-dichloroethane and vinyl chloride. Vinyl Chloride can sometimes occur in conjunction with Trichloroethane and TCE as a breakdown product. Independent studies confirmed groundwater is threatened by liquid toxic leachate, and there are contaminated fish, vegetables and fruit in the area. As the result of the lawsuit by Mossville residents and Sierra Club, EPA is required to develop emissions standards for PVC generating plants. Written comments on the proposed rule were accepted until 19 July, 2011. The final rule is expected to be signed by 13 January, 2012. In Lake Charles LA, A jury found one of the United States leading PVC manufacturers liable for wanton and reckless disregard of public safety, caused by one of the largest chemical spills in the nations history which contaminated the groundwater underneath the surrounding community.
Reveilletown, Louisiana, was once a small African-American town adjacent to an EDC/VCM facility owned by Georgia-Gulf. In the 1980s, after a plume of vinyl chloride in groundwater began to seep under homes in the area, Georgia-Gulf agreed to permanently evacuate the entire community of one hundred and six residents. Reveilletown has since been demolished.


A 1999 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study in the parish found vinyl chloride levels in ambient air greater than 100 times the state air quality standard. PVC manufacturer Formosa accidentally released 8,000 pounds of vinyl chloride into the atmosphere from its Baton Rouge, La. plant in 2003.
Reveilletown, Louisiana, was once a small African-American town adjacent to an EDC/VCM facility owned by Georgia-Gulf. In the 1980s, after a plume of vinyl chloride in groundwater began to seep under homes in the area, Georgia-Gulf agreed to permanently evacuate the entire community of one hundred and six residents. Reveilletown has since been demolished. In 2003, in Plaquemine, Louisiana, a trailer park development was relocated after being contaminated by vinyl chloride groundwater contamination, but only after women suffered from an abnormal number of miscarriages in the tainted area



Toxic Release Inventory and Superfund Sites Overlain to Liver Cancer in Males (Highest Death Rates are in Blue)

In Texas, vinyl chloride has been discovered in wells nearby a PVC plant, which was forced to spend one million dollars cleaning up the contaminated groundwater. This same company was fined in 1991 for over $3 million (U.S.) for hazardous waste violations related to the groundwater contamination. An explosion at the Formosa Plastics Corporation plant in Point Comfort Texas in December 1998 injured 26 workers and rattled windows 35 miles away.


Toxic Release Inventory and Superfund Sites Overlain to Liver Cancer in Males (Highest Death Rates are in Blue) 18

On April 23, 2004, a PVC plant in Illinois exploded, sending a plume of toxic smoke for miles around surrounding communities. Five workers were killed, four towns were evacuated, several highways closed, a no-fly zone declared, and three hundred firefighters from twenty-seven surrounding communities battled the flames for three days Pennsylvania

Toxic Release Inventory and Superfund Sites Overlain to Liver Cancer in Males (Highest Death Rates are in Blue)


In Pennsylvania, the federal government is working to clean up highly contaminated groundwater and contaminated lagoons at an OxyChem PVC plant. California


Toxic Release Inventory and Superfund Sites Overlain to Liver Cancer in Males (Highest Death Rates are in Blue)


The 1970s brought the first accusations that Keysor-Century Corp., a plastics maker in Saugus, CA since the 1950s, was releasing vinyl chloride, a carcinogen, into the air and water. In 2002 the plastics manufacturer under investigation by the FBI for discharging vinyl chloride vinyl chloride into the environment poured the compound into a Santa Clarita storm drain storm drain city officials said. Keysor-Century Corp. allowed 3,000 gallons of the known carcinogen into the city's drainage system which flows to the Pacific. In January 2003, Keysor-Century shut its resin plant and the company reportedly filed for bankruptcy. . In 2004, the Century plant in Santa Clarita, CA paid $4 million in penalties in 2004 for lying about the high levels of carcinogens it released into the air


Toxic Release Inventory and Superfund Sites Overlain to Liver Cancer in Males (Highest Death Rates are in Blue)


Toxic Release Inventory and Superfund Sites Overlain to Liver Disease in Males (Highest Death Rates are in Blue) 24



April 9, 1992

Toxic Release Inventory and Superfund Sites Overlain to Liver Cancer in Males (Highest Death Rates are in Blue)

Faulty electric cable wrapped around water pipes to prevent freezing apparently set off a blaze that killed a Dale City woman and her two sons.


The cable, called heating tape, which is used by thousands of homeowners to prevent water pipes from freezing, is involved in 2600 fires each year, resulting in an estimated 20 deaths, 110 injuries and $24.8 million in annual property loss, according to officials of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. The investigation showed that the heating tape ignited a plastic water shut-off valve and the flame spread to PVC piping, which produced toxic smoke and gases.



September 10 1992


Over 100 people were evacuated from a four-block area for about seven hours after a fire at the Custom Mill recycling plant. Ten firefighters and police officers were examined for exposure to polyvinyl chloride. A pallet with 50 50-pound bags of PVC caught fire in the Custom Mill building, apparently as a result of a breakdown in processing. The product is received in granular form and the plant pulverizes it into powder. The bags contained the powdered form. The burning PVC created hydrogen chloride gas, which burns the eyes, nose and throat. Four firefighters were treated at a local hospital and released.


March 20-21, 1985 At about 12:15 p.m. an alarm sounded for a building fire at a large warehouse leased by a plastics company. Firefighters arrived on the scene within minutes, but the fire was already raging out of control, producing flames 40 feet high.


About an hour after the fire began, firemen battling the blaze from several locations reported skin rashes and eye irritations. Another hour later it was confirmed that the unoccupied warehouse (200m by 70 m) illegally contained large quantities of polyvinyl chloride waste awaiting shipment to the company's Newark plant for remolding. Initially firefighters had no idea that the unoccupied, burning warehouse was being used for illegal storage of pure, bulk polyvinyl chloride (PVC) scrap. Consequently, protective measures, like the use of masks, were only ordered once the nature of the fire became known. This resulted in additional chemical exposure among the firefighters. Approximately 1000 community residents were evacuated from their homes, and 28 firefighters reported to a local hospital with symptoms associated with the fire. Two-thirds of these firefighters had abnormal pulmonary function tests. Chemical analyses of debris specimens taken directly from the scene of the fire showed that hydrogen chloride was a significant combustion product of the fire. Firefighters exposed to burning PVC were studied to assess respiratory effects at 6 weeks post-incident and again at 22 months following the fire. Exposed subjects reported significantly frequent and severe respiratory problems at both times. At 22 months, approximately 18 percent of exposed firefighters, compared with none of the control subjects, reported that since the time of the PVC exposure, a physician had told them that they had either asthma or bronchitis. Symptoms attributed to HCL: eye irritation, skin irritation, rashes or itching, sore throat. Other symptoms: headaches, restlessness, dizziness, blurred vision, stomach pain, tingling/numbness, dry mouth, chest pains, wheezing, coughing, short of breath, increased thirst, muscle/joint pain, tiredness, daytime drowsiness. Significant risk factors related to the fire included fighting the fire on March 20 (the first day), living within one mile of the firehouse, and being a truckman.


Toxic Release Inventory and Superfund Sites Overlain to Liver Cancer in Males (Highest Death Rates are in Blue)

MGM fire, Las Vegas, Nevada

MGM Grand Hotel November 21, 1980 The MGM Grand Hotel occupied a city block and rose twenty six floors. The design and operation of the hotel violated codes and practices for smoke control. Among other synthetics, the hotel had a space between the casino ceiling and the floor of the first story that contained PVC drainage pipes (tons of plastic), and a vast electrical network, with all wires insulated in PVC plastic. Wallcovering, rigid moulded furniture, and fake leather upholstery also contained PVC. 29

What was unusual about this fire was the smoke: its quality, quanitity, density and the number of people it killed. The most striking fact about the MGM fire was that the great majority of those killed (61 out of 85) died on the 19th through the 26th floors of the hotel. These victims were as far away from the fire as they could be and still be in the building. The smoke had risen to the top floor, accumulated, and sunk downward, then up out of the building top. Control over the fan system was lost when its PVC tubing melted in the early stages of the fire, so the fans continued to push smoke around the building. Most of the people who died on the bottom floors died of smoke inhalation before they burned. Forty seven percent of all victims showed a sublethal level of carbon monoxide in the lungs. Attributed to chlorinated hydrocarbons were: uterine dysfunctions, excessive sweating, muscle spasms and shaking, skin rashes, acne and discolorations. Some of the strongest symptom patterns were psychological. Depression, irritability, nightmares, inability to concentrate, and relational problems with friends and family were common in survivors. In some of the victims, the red blood cells had completely disintegrated. The destruction of red blood cells has been seen in victims of other plastics fires and in lab animals exposed to PVC fumes. Hydrogen chloride destroys oxygen-carrying hemoglobin, the protein that forms the major content of red blood cells. Some of the elements in the soot found in the lungs of the victims appears to be from PVC products: antimony, zinc, and lead, iron, chlorine, nickel, calcium. It was concluded that the synthetic polymeric products in the casino were the source of the soot found in the rooms and in the victims broncii, because wood does not contain these elements in large quantities. It was also concluded that at least some of the soot came from the PVC products, specifically. Sixty-one people died twenty stories above the fire from soot and fumes given off by burning plastics in the ground floor casino. Source: In the Mouth of the Dragon by Deborah Wallace

The results of several tests can sometimes show if you have been exposed to vinyl chloride, depending on the amount of your exposure and how recently it happened. However, scientists do not know whether these measurements can tell how much vinyl chloride you have been exposed to. These tests are not normally available at your doctor's office. Vinyl chloride can be measured in your breath, but the test must be done shortly after exposure. This test is not very helpful for measuring very low levels of the chemical. 30

There is no antidote for vinyl chloride. Treatment consists of support of respiratory and cardiovascular functions.

The environmentalist group Greenpeace has advocated the global phase-out of PVC because they claim dioxin is produced as a byproduct of vinyl chloride manufacture and from incineration of waste PVC in domestic garbage. Dioxins are a global health threat because they persist in the environment and can travel long distances. At very low levels, near those to which the general population is exposed, dioxins have been linked to immune system suppression, reproductive disorders, a variety of cancers, and endometriosis. 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. Most poignantly, 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. Dioxins are an undesirable byproduct of producing PVC and eliminating the production of dioxins while maintaining the polymerization reaction may be difficult. Dioxins created by vinyl chloride production are released by on-site incinerators, flares, boilers, wastewater treatment systems and even in trace quantities in vinyl resins. The US EPA estimate of dioxin releases from the PVC industry was 13 grams TEQ in 1995, or less than 0.5% of the total dioxin emissions in the US; by 2002, PVC industry dioxin emissions had been further reduced by 23%. Other EU studies indicate that PVC likely "accounts for the overwhelming majority of chlorine that is available for dioxin formation during landfill fires.

The next largest sources of dioxin in the EPA inventory are medical and municipal waste incinerators. Studies have shown a clear correlation between dioxin formation and chloride content and indicate that PVC is a significant contributor to the formation of both dioxin and PCB in incinerators. In February 2007, the Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) released its report on a PVC avoidance which concluded that the "risk of dioxin emissions puts PVC consistently among the worst materials for human health impacts."


Phthalate plasticizers
Many vinyl products contain additional chemicals to change the chemical consistency of the product. Some of these additional chemicals called additives can leach out of vinyl products. Plasticizers that must be added to make PVC flexible have been additives of particular concern. The most commonly used plasticizers in PVC come from the chemical family called phthalates and they can make up to 60% by weight of a product. Animal studies show that phthalates are as toxic as PVC itself, causing cancer, thyroid and kidney diseases, possibly due to their effects on the endocrine system. Being fat-soluble, they also tend to accumulate in the body. One widely used phthalate in PVC, DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate), is listed by the California EPA as a known reproductive toxin. The evidence of human health effects of phthalates comes from studies on neonates exposed to DEHP through medical devices linking this exposure to lung and liver damage. Evidence of other effects such as early puberty, sperm damage, and asthma and allergic reactions are increasing. Other phthalates have not been as closely studied as DEHP.

Because soft PVC toys have been made for babies for years, there are concerns that these additives leach out of soft toys into the mouths of the children chewing on them. Phthalates mimic human hormones and also affect various life forms including fish and invertebrates adversely. In January 2006, the European Union placed a ban on six types of phthalate softeners, including DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate), used in toys. In the U.S. most companies have voluntarily stopped manufacturing PVC toys with DEHP. According to a report issued by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice in June 2008, if theres a vinyl shower curtain hanging in your bathroom it may be out-gassing more than 100 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phthalates and other pollutants that are known or suspected of causing liver damage or cancer in people Consider investing in a cloth shower curtain instead. Its just as durable, possibly affords more privacy and, unlike its vinyl counterpart, it will relinquish whatever soils to the washing machine.

Vinyl intravenous (IV) bags used in neo-natal intensive care units have also been shown to leach DEHP. The FDA suggests that manufacturers consider eliminating DEHP in certain devices that can result in high aggregate exposures for sensitive patient populations such as neonates. 32

Phthalates are also found in medications, where they are used as inactive ingredients in producing enteric coatings. It is not known how many medications are made using phthalates, but some include omeprazole, didanosine, mesalamine, and theophylline. A recent study found that urinary concentrations of monobutyl phthalate, the DBP metabolite, of mesalamine users was 50 times higher than the mean of nonusers (some formulations of mesalamine do not contain phthalates).The study showed that exposures from phthalate-containing medications can far exceed population levels from other sources. DBP in medications raises concern about health risks due to the high level of exposures associated with taking these medications, especially in vulnerable segments of the population, including pregnant women and children. Due to environmental concerns, use of PVC is discouraged by some local authorities in countries such as UK Germany and the Netherlands. Several major corporations including Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and Kaiser Permanente announced efforts to eliminate PVC from products and packaging in 2005.Target is reducing its sale of items with PVC. In addition, the Japanese car companies Toyota, Nissan, and Honda have eliminated PVC in their car interiors starting in 2007. The State of California is currently considering a bill that would ban the use of PVC in consumer packaging due to the threats it poses to human and environmental health and its effect on the recycling stream. Specifically, the language of the bill analysis stipulates that EPA has listed vinyl chloride, a "constituent element" of PVC, as a carcinogen. It also further cites that there are concerns about the leaching of phthalates and lead from the PVC packaging.

Things to Avoid!
Individuals located near or downwind of production facilities, hazardous waste disposal sites, and landfills may be exposed to atmospheric levels of vinyl chloride higher than ambient background levels. Homes near one hazardous waste site in southern California were found to contain levels as high as 1,040 g/m3 (0.4 ppm) of vinyl chloride (Stephens et al. 1986) and homes near another site contained levels between 2.6 and 23.4 g/m3 (0.0010.009 ppm) (Miller and Beizer 1985). These concentrations are several times greater than ambient air levels that are generally <1 g/m3 (Pratt et al. 2000). Individuals living near hazardous waste sites and landfills may also be exposed to vinyl chloride in their drinking water. Workers involved in the production or use of vinyl chloride are likely to be exposed to levels greater than the levels that the general public is exposed to). Cigarette smoke and smoke from small cigars have been found to contain vinyl chloride at levels of 5.6 27 ng per cigarette (Hoffman et al. 1976). Therefore, people who smoke heavily may be potentially exposed to higher levels of vinyl chloride than nonsmokers.

Products of Concern


Childrens toys: Teethers, bath and squeeze toys, balls, watchbands, etc. Childcare products: stroller covers, diaper covers, bibs, mattress covers, etc. Other consumer products: aprons, raincoats, hats, shoes and boots, bags, backpacks, luggage, pleather clothing, childrens swimming pools, inflatable furniture, etc. Medical devices: colostomy bags, catheters, tubing, gloves, bed liners, mattress covers, etc.

Environment California lists the following Recommendations for Parents:

Look for PVC-free on the labels of soft plastic toys and teethers. Another class of chemicals shown to disrupt the hormone system phthalatesis found in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. PVC plastic is used to make different types of childrens products, including some teethers and soft plastic toys. Some manufacturers have removed PVC from their childrens products, especially products intended to be put into childrens mouths. Unfortunately, no law requires or regulates these labels, and few products are labeled as such. When parents have a question about the chemicals in a product, they should call the manufacturer. Choose wooden toys. There are countless manufacturers of high quality wooden toys in the market. Everything from baby rattles to kitchen play-sets are now made out of wood. Some commonly available brands include Plan Toys, Haba, Turner Toys, Selecta, and Holztiger. Choose safer food packaging and serving containers. Avoid polycarbonate plastic in food containers. Check the bottom/underside of the product. If you see PC (usually in or near the recycling triangle) signifying polycarbonate plastic, do not purchase it. Often a number 7 on the bottom in the recycling triangle, by itself, also means the material is polycarbonate, but not always. To be safe, avoid #7 plastic. Choose plastics labeled #1, #2, or #5 in the recycling triangle, but do not heat beverages or food in plastic containers of any kind. 34

Avoid PVC plastic in food containers. Check the bottom/underside of the product. If you find the number 3 in the recycling triangle, it is made from PVC plastic and should be avoided. Choose plastics labeled #1, #2, or #5 in the recycling triangle, but do not heat beverages or food in plastic containers of any kind. Avoid canned foods: Unfortunately, bisphenol A can leach from metal can lining into the foods and liquids contained within. Buy baby food in glass containers, and avoid feeding your child food from cans as much as possible. You can often find popular childrens foods, such as tomato sauce, applesauce, and black beans, in glass jars. Choose safer containers for sippy cups and water bottles. Look for plastics labeled #1, #2, or #5 in the recycling triangle. As an alternative to hard plastic water bottles (such as the polycarbonate Nalgene bottles), try a lightweight stainless steel bottle instead. Choose glass or safer-plastic baby bottles. Almost all plastic baby bottles are made from polycarbonate plastic containing bisphenol A, but they are rarely labeled as such. With as few as 50-100 washingseven before you see wearsignificant amounts of bisphenol A can leach into your babys milk. For the best protection, switch to using glass bottles for all or most of babys use. Contrary to claims by the plastics industry, glass bottles are extremely durable and safe (and wash well in the dishwasher). And after all, they were good enough for you when you were a baby! Evenflo is one of the only glass bottle makers around (some Babies R Us stores carry them and they are available on-line). A couple of manufacturers make their baby bottles from a safer polypropylene-based plastic (a softer, opaque plastic), which has not been associated with the developmental problems linked to bisphenol A. Choose metal feeding utensils and enamel or ceramic plates. While many manufacturers have removed phthalates from products intended to be put into young childrens mouths, without a law prohibiting their use, there is no guarantee that these products, such as soft, plastic-coated feeding spoons, are made without phthalates. Look for PVC-free labels or buy stainless steel, enamel, ceramic, or glass. (Note that enamel cannot be put in the microwave, and you should not use old pottery that could have lead-based glazes). Avoid foods wrapped in plastic. Almost all commercial grade plastic cling wrap contains PVC plasticized with phthalates, and other plastic food packaging may be made of PVC, as well. Avoid buying foods wrapped in plastic, especially cheeses and meats. Buy deli-sliced cheeses and meats and have them wrapped in paper. If you cant avoid buying plastic-wrapped foods, cut off a thin layer of the cheese or meat when you get home and store the remainder in glass or less-toxic plastic.

At Home 35

Use glass to heat food or liquid in the microwave. You should not heat food in plastic containers or on plastic dishware, or heat liquids in plastic baby bottles. Heating food and liquids in plastic containers can cause chemicals and additives in the plastics to leach out more readilyright into babys food and milk. While some plastic containers are marketed as microwave safe, it is safest to avoid them for heating. If you do use plastic bottles, containers, or dishware, avoid harsh detergents or hot water when washing them to reduce exposure. Do not put plastic bottles, containers, or dishware in the dishwasher. Also, throw out any plastic bottles, containers, and dishware that start to look scratched or hazy. Do not let milk sit for long periods of time in plastic. Avoid letting your child put plastic toys in his/her mouth. Toys designed for older children are more likely to contain phthalates or bisphenol A. It is assumed that young children will not mouth these toyssuch as action figures and Barbie dolls. To be safe, keep all plastic toys out of childrens mouths. Call the manufacturer if you want to know if a product contains phthalates or bisphenol A.

Avoid childrens imported Bounce Houses at parties. In 2010, the California Attorney General sued makers of inflatable PVC for Bounce Houses for containing lead at 70 times the legal limit in California which poses a lead hazard to children. Generally only US makers and Party Jump/Party Interactive certify that their products are always lead free.


Alternative options
Thermoplastics Polyethylene: Polyethylene (PE) is the most widely used plastic in the world today. The polyethylenes are extremely versatile and can be made from hard to soft as soap by modifying hydrocarbon chain length or cross-linking. No additives are needed to soften polyethylene. Polypropylene: Polypropylene (PP) is easily processed by all methods and offers good material properties, such as low density, good mechanical, temperature, flexing/fatigue, and stress-crack resistance, and rigidity. As with polyethylene, polypropylene requires no plasticizers for flexibility. Children products manufacturers that have or are eliminating PVC: Brio, Chicco, Childlife, Evenflo, First Years, Gerber, International Playthings (Primetime & Early Start), Lamaze Infant Development, Lego, Little Tikes, Ravensburger, Sassy, Small World Toys, Tiny Love, Yomega. Mattel Inc., the worlds largest toy manufacturer is planning to replace all PVC in their products by plant-based plastics.

Cast iron, steel, concrete vitrified clay, copper, and plastics, such as HDPE (high density polyethylene). San Francisco and New York State have banned PVC pipe. An increasing number of major projects, from the U.S. EPA headquarters in Washington, DC to the 2000 Olympic village in Sydney, Australia, have vastly reduced or completely eliminated use of PVC.

Fiber-cement board, stucco, recycled or reclaimed or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified sustainably harvested wood, OSB (oriented strand board), brick, and polypropylene.

Roofing Membranes
TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin), EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer), NBP (nitrile butadiene polymer) and low-slope metal roofing.


Flooring & Carpet

Linoleum, bamboo, ceramic tile, carpeting with natural fiber backing or polyolefins, reclaimed or FSC certified sustainably harvested wood, cork, rubber, concrete, and nonchlorinated plastic polymers.

Wall Coverings & Furniture

Natural fibers such as wood and wool, polyethylene, polyester, and paint.

Electrical Insulation and Sheathing

Halogen free, LLDPE (linear low-density polyethylene), XLP and XLPE (thermoset crosslinked polyethylene)

Windows & Doors

Recycled, reclaimed or FSC certified sustainably harvested wood, fiberglass, and aluminum.

PVC Cant be readily recycled: 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 18 million barely one quarter of 1% - is recycled. The Association of Post Consumer Plastics Recyclers declared efforts to recycle PVC a failure and labeled it a contaminant in 1998...


PVC plastic is one of the most ubiquitous products of the modern age. However, we now are beginning to understand the risks associated with its continued manufacture, use and disposal. We know enough already to determine that the tradeoff of convenience in exchange for our health is not a good bargain. We also know that we do not have to choose since alternative products are readily available. What is needed now is a widespread education campaign about the risks inherent in the PVC life cycle and a focus on the individuals personalized toxic exposure profile throughout their lifetime. We cant easily change our behavior and our attitudes about product choices until we fully understand how those choices affect us personally and the lives of our family. Virtually all of the major sources of PVC in the environment are known and we know exactly where to look to find the minor sources which might be important in our individual lives. How can you determine if YOU have been poisoned? The state wont tell you your individual exposure because they generally only report county data. The companies wont tell you because they are too busy trying to hide the truth. The regulatory agencies wont tell you because they are too busy taking credit for progress and ignoring the damage that has already been done to your body. In many cases not even the medical profession can help you because they do not know what to look for in your particular case. You will have to prepare a personalized toxic exposure profile. While minute amounts of vinyl chloride and dioxin-like substances are present in the air we breathe and the water we drink, it is not equally dangerous everywhere in the U.S. You need to know the current distances and pollution directions from the major Vinyl Chloride sources of your residence and workplaces. If you are in the pollution path from one of the 500 Superfund sites, consider having your water and soil tested for vinyl chloride and dioxin contamination. You also need to know the history of your PVC exposure from your past residences all the way back to your gestation period during your mothers pregnancy. How can you use all of this information? Determining the types and amounts of toxic exposures can aid in chronic disease diagnosis since some of these chemicals have been associated with certain diseases. It can also help your doctor to better determine treatment options. It can help to anticipate chronic disease symptoms and their stages of progression. It will help your lawyer assign blame and

determine liability. Most importantly, it will help you to avoid possible future PVC and dioxin exposures (especially during pregnancy). Only a personalized environmental health profile showing your specific residences relative to the Superfund sites and Toxic Release Inventory Sites can provide security. If this reveals potential high PVC exposure or if you develop symptoms consistent with PVC/ Vinyl Chloride poisoning consider having your blood tested. Tell your doctors if you have reason to believe that you have been exposed to high PVC/Vinyl Chloride levels over a long period and have them closely monitor early symptoms of PVC related diseases. Only a complete customized toxic profile of previous, current and potential exposures to PVCs in the environment can minimize acute symptoms and chronic disease complications. Exposure to PVC/Vinyl Chloride may decrease your lifespan and have health effects in the long term. Death rates from a variety of causes have been found to be higher in people with extremely high vinyl chloride levels in the blood; these include cancer, liver and heart disease, and general death rates from all causes. Early testing and detection can maximize the opportunities for a correct diagnosis and provide your doctor with more treatment options. Ultimately, this is the best way to reduce the impacts of chronic diseases from PVC exposure and improve chances for favorable outcomes. In the end, limiting current and future exposures to PVCs is the best strategy. Only early detection and treatment of PVCrelated diseases can significantly lower your chance of developing certain chronic diseases and reduce risks from prolonged PVC/Vinyl Chloride and dioxin exposure.