PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, was once deemed a great innovation; a discovery that simplified the way we lived. Things that seemed a figment of our imagination could suddenly be made out of a miracle plastic to expedite our daily routines. Plastic molding became the norm as merchandise, almost seemingly essential to sustain life itself, churned out of factories.
Whatever the advantages of PVC may have been, today, it is indisputable that PVC is a known toxin to both humans and animals alike. Dubbed the most toxic plastic, vinyl – or polyvinyl chloride – is used today in a superfluity of items surrounding us.
What is disturbing is the fact that PVC uses chemicals that are quite dangerous to both our health and the environment; yet many of these chemicals and PVC Health hazards are present in our own homes, workplaces, and schools where children are exposed to them on a daily basis.
What is PVC Material?
PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride), is a synthetic polymer material that contains chlorine. It can be made from ethylene, butane, and other chemicals. It is used in many household items like shower curtains, rain gutters, pipes, and in some food packaging. Chemicals in PVC can cause serious illnesses like cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, liver damage, and respiratory problems like asthma or COPD.
Children’s Exposure To PVC Hazards And Health Concerns
The greatest threat of PVC is to children health. Children are extremely vulnerable to PVC hazards harmful chemicals as they are in the early stages of physical and mental development. Exposure to such chemicals can have serious consequences. Vinyl chloride, the chemical used to make PVC, is a known human carcinogen, according to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Children’s products including water bottles, lunch boxes, toys, small chairs and tables, school bags, and stationery items such as pencil boxes can contain some amounts of PVC.
The fact is, while most of these items are made of plastic due to their weightlessness, affordability, and convenience, children today are put at far greater risk since they are in constant contact with such items. Here is a great video by CJEJ (Center for Health, Environment, and Justice) called Sam Suds and the Case of PVC, the Poison Plastic.
PVC Product Health Hazards
- Children’s toys: Teethers, bath and squeeze toys, balls, and watchbands.
- Childcare products: Stroller covers, diaper covers, bibs, and mattress covers.
- Adult Consumer products: Aprons, raincoats, hats, shoes and boots, bags, backpacks, luggage, pet toys, food packaging, plumbing, and building materials, medical devices, inflatable furniture & swimming pools, vinyl flooring, vinyl shower curtains, bed liners, and mattress covers (click HERE for greener shower curtain alternatives).
The manufacturing of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) requires the addition of chemical softeners (plasticizers such as phthalates) and stabilizers (ie: heavy metals including lead; a neurotoxin and cadmium; a probable human carcinogen that can cause kidney disease) among others. The main ingredient in PVC plastic, however, is phthalates which can make up the majority of the weight of a product. Phthalates are used to soften plastic to make it more flexible.
As plastics degrade, these chemicals break down slowly and release more and more phthalates into the air. This can make the air toxic. Due to the sources found inside, air levels are on average much higher than outside. Exposure to such toxic chemicals can result in hormonal imbalances, asthma, and even cancer.
Strict measures should be taken to reduce the presence of PVC-laden toys and products in households and schools. Since children are most likely to be affected by PVC and phthalates, PVC plastic products should be avoided or replaced with healthier alternatives.
How to Detect PVC Plastic?
Have you ever noticed that plastic objects have a triangle symbol with a number in the center – usually found on the bottom of the object? The recycling rating numbers, called the SPI (Society of Plastic Industry) Resin Identification Code, are not only essential for recycling efforts but offer information from a health perspective. #3 polyvinyl chloride (V, PVC) inside the triangle indicates PVC.
Due to these various additives and the presence of the chlorine molecule itself, PVC plastic is difficult to recycle and has been reported as the least recycled of all plastics. PVC-free plastics such as plant-based resins are affordable, widely available and a more advisable choice for you & your loved ones.
What does PVC Stand For?
PVC Stand For Poly Vinyl Chloride. PVC is a synthetic polymer material that contains chlorine. It can be made from ethylene, butane, and other chemicals.
Is PVC plastic?
PVC is plastic made from a thermoplastic polymer that contains chlorine. It can be made from ethylene, butane, and other chemicals.
What are some of the PVC Health Effects?
PVC health effects and risks include dermatitis (skin irritation), asthma attacks and respiratory problems (in addition to other health conditions), kidney disease, and liver damage. It is also a known carcinogen, meaning it has the potential health risk to cause cancer.
Is PCV Plastic Toxic?
PCV is a toxic chemical that has been used in vinyl products for decades. It can be found in many forms, including food wrap and paint.
Is PVC Recyclable?
PVC is not recyclable as it contains a lot of the harmful chemicals that are contained in plastic.
Is PVC Clothing Safe To Wear?
PVC clothes use dangerous chemicals like ethylene and butane. PVC clothing can cause skin irritation.
What is a PVC Mold?
A PVC mold is a tool used to make plastic objects by pouring liquid polymer into the mold.
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PVC production and disposal also present significant problems and potential for exposure to other toxic chemicals such as dioxins and hydrogen chloride gas. Remember, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Taking action HERE and spreading awareness about the harmful effects of PVC can enhance the quality of life and help both children and our planet thrive toward a healthier future for all.
I have been trying for three years now to eliminat PVC from our home. I only wish I knew about the danger when my boys were even younger!
Ron & Lisa says
We hear you Suzanne! I think a LOT of us feel this way. But, it is better to know now than to be ignorant to the facts. It can be challenging to keep up on toxic exposures when there is an abundance of chemicals in existence today, but a bit of knowledge and smarter choices can go a long way in terms of our long-term health, vitality and well-being!
I been manufacturing plastic polymers now for the better part of 35 years in April of 2015 I had a nasty bout of the cephalitis neurosurgeons had no idea what caused it I now have brain damage before I get to bed I did some research on my own and of all the plastics I work with I found some common denominators of chemicals all of which produce brain damaging chemicals but I was not informed about I don’t know what up where are you from here but I sure will do something. Yes PVC was one of them
Ron & Lisa Beres says
Thanks for your comment Willy! PVC is surely the most toxic plastic from both a health and environmental perspective. We are so sorry to hear about your illness and send you much healing love + light. Please keep us posted on your journey to seeking answers and solutions!
Any suggestions for a safe bath mat (to make bath safer for a toddler – no slipping)? All the ones available appear to be made of plastic, I’m assuming they are made of PVC. Your suggestions are welcome. Thank you.
Ron & Lisa Beres says
YESS! Our friends at Earthsake have so many nontoxic bath mat options:
1.) The Natural Latex bath mat: http://www.earthsake.com/store/aquassagemat.html
2.) The Hinoki Wood (similar to what we use): http://www.earthsake.com/store/HinokiWoodBathMat.html
3.) The Organic Waffle Weave Bath Mat: http://www.earthsake.com/store/OrganicWaffleBathMat.html
We hope this helps!
Maury Miloff says
Thanks for this article.
Could you tell me what you think please about uPVC windows which apparently have minimal impact on health for the occupants of the house. Is it true that they don’t have phthalates or BPA?
chiruu k says
scientist here–> definitely not saying PVC is great, but to date there isn’t sufficient evidence that is causes cancer in humans.
A–all of the human-related health issues have been documented in people working in PVC factories exposed to gas form and particulate, you can read more here:
B–leaching out of drinking water pipes: this was extensively tested by California DHS in 1980, mimicking a new PVC install in a home– (https://www.nap.edu/catalog/325/drinking-water-and-health-volume-4), they found:
1. Vinyl chloride monomer was not detected in any of the samples. The
detection limit was 0.1 µg/liter. In the PVC pipe tests.
2. They also tested for heavy metals (often used to stabilize PVC), they found:
“After 2 weeks in the static PVC system. concentrations of metals in
the water from the pipe were below EPA maximum contaminant levels and
generally at or below levels in the influent water…”
-more studies would be useful to get a full picture, but to date there’s not much evidence.
You may want to update your article.
Ron & Lisa Beres says
Appreciate your feedback, Ricky. No doubt factory workers and those living nearby are at the highest risk. But we’ll have to agree to disagree on the lack of sufficient evidence. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (read more here: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/vinyl-chloride.pdf) have all deemed vinyl chloride as a known human carcinogen. In addition, industry has downplayed the negative health effects and left people to unnecessarily suffer. Per, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families:
‘The harmful health effects of vinyl chloride have been known for decades, though the industry has suppressed and misrepresented the health effects from PVC exposures for years. Industry experiments in laboratory animals, as early as the 1950s, found evidence of harm but officials did not initially disclose the findings. PVC manufacturers also delayed the release of study results showing that rodents exposed at levels much lower than the allowable workplace exposure limits developed liver sarcoma. And then the vinyl industry commissioned an epidemiologist to downplay the associated non-liver cancer risks of vinyl chloride, while evidence of links to brain cancer continued to mount and workers continued to die from cancer. After an aggressive lobbying campaign from industry, a final EPA vinyl chloride assessment completed in 2000 after industry protest, excluded risk to organs other than the liver, which limited the development of truly protective health standards based on total cancer risk to all organs from vinyl chloride exposure.’
The U.S. EPA has set a drinking water standard for vinyl chloride.
Congress specifically identified vinyl chloride as a hazardous air pollutant under the Clean Air Act and it is regulated as such by the EPA.
Exposure to vinyl chloride is also subject to workplace safety standards for airborne concentrations.
The Food and Drug Administration currently limits the quantity of vinyl chloride in food-contact
Vinyl chloride is listed on California’s Prop 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer.
Vinyl chloride is listed as a “chemical of high concern” for its carcinogenic effects under Maine’s law on Toxic Chemicals in Children’s Products.
CAS Registry Number 75-01-4.
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Toxicological Profile for Vinyl Chloride. 2006. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp20.pdf
EPA Toxicity and Exposure Assessment for Children’s Health (TEACH). Vinyl chloride summary. http://www.epa.gov/teach/chem_summ/VC_summary.pdf
National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for Vinyl Chloride Subpart F, OMB Control Number 2060-0071, EPA ICR Number 0186.09 (Federal Register: September 25, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 186))
Sass JB, Castleman B, Wallinga D. Vinyl Chloride: A Case Study of Data Suppression and Misrepresentation. Env Health Perspect 2005; 113 (7): 809-812.
Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services. Information on Toxic Chemicals. Vinyl Chloride. (POH 4723 Revised 12/2000.)
Greg Toledo says
I work in the manufacture of PVC pipe. We are exposed to PVC in powder form as well as the gases released when heating. Our employer has informed us that we do not have access to the SDS (safety data sheets) required by OSHA due to proprietary formula secrets. Is this legal? If not, or if you don’t know, who should we contact?
Illegal in this country. Contact your equivalent to a “Ministry of Labor” to find out about yours.
Worker rights in this country include INFORMED workers.
Should I be concerned about gaming / office chairs made with PVC leather? I just bought one about 2 weeks ago, and while researching how long the new smell would last, I found a few concerning articles about the possible dangers of this type of leather. Had I known about this before buying the chair, I would not have bought it. Simple as that.
Is it even possible to thoroughly wipe the chair down with soap and water to remove any potential toxins on it, such as lead or anything else that may be toxic on it? I have been using this chair with a thick blanket placed over it after reading about the potential heath dangers. It’s really a shame anyone should even have to be worrying about something like this. Kids love these type of chairs, and yet, there are no warnings about this. This is what makes me mad.
Hello. I’ve been using Flents earplugs made with PVC foam every night for years. I finally am understanding how bad PVC foam is. I can’t find the process on how and what goes into these. Can these emit gases through my ear canal? I’ve been struggling with vertigo and no one has mentioned that these could be a problem. What do you think?