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|An Evaluation of the Hazards of Toys and other Products made from Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)|
|OTHER HAZARDS: Dioxin Vinyl Chloride Monomer|
Important Update: Comparing the safety of all materials used for food and water
July, 2002: Recent questions from our email inbox
Links to documents:
Easy-to-print version of this report (26 sec @ 28k)
Update, Jan. '99:
DIOXIN INTRODUCED INTO THE ENVIRONMENT BY POLYVINYL
CHLORIDE MANUFACTURE, DISPOSAL (INCLUDING CONTROLLED COMBUSTION), AND UNCONTROLLED
COMBUSTION (ACCIDENTAL FIRES). 9/12/98.
We have a copy of the EPA's report of environmental sources of Dioxin, and the EPA study on the mechanisms and extent of biological damage caused by Dioxin. In brief, dioxin is uniquely harmful to mammalian biology, causing cellular changes with even an initial exposure to very small amounts of the toxin. It appears that cells may actually have dioxin "receptors", which cause them to undergo changes with even the most minimal exposure. These changes may result in cancer and other disorders. Releases of dioxin to the environment occur primarily from the high-temperature heating or high energy oxidation of organic molecules in the presence of chlorine, in various forms, including (apparently) Sodium Chloride or other non-toxic inorganic chlorides. For examples, the burning of wood results in significant release of dioxin only when the wood has been soaked in sea-water. An experimental burn of PVC resulted in comparatively high yields of dioxin; downwind measurement of soot and ash from building fires of structures using significant amounts of PVC indicated significant levels of dioxin. Other meaningful sources identified included waste disposal incinerators, and cement kilns burning waste. Presumably, either some sort of organochlorine compounds were included in these fuels, or organic compounds with some source of chlorine.
Regarding the release of Dioxin from the manufacture of PVC, the testing to date, cited in the 1998 EPA document, has been done either by Greenpeace or by the Vinyl Institute (or as studies commissioned by the two groups). Methodology is not given. The V.I found very little dioxin (in fact, they claim that the entire PVC industry generates less than a teaspoonful annually); Greenpeace claims far higher numbers. The numbers provided by Greenpeace and the Vinyl Institute differ by such a huge margin that neither can be accepted as a final determination of fact, unless and until backed up with more information.
I found it disturbing that the EPA report on sources, running to over 500 pages, gives rather little space to PVC manufacture or disposal as a source.
|Vinyl Chloride Monomer (VCM) VCM does not, theoretically, occur in PVC polymer produced with perfect quality control. However, this highly toxic and carcinogenic compound has been found to be a trace component of PVC. There have been reports of VCM detected in drinking water that has been standing for a period of time in PVC water pipe. The main risk of VCM, however, has been found to be primarily to workers in plants producing VCM or producing PVC resin from the VCM monomer; and also to people living close to such plants. Exposure hazard to workers, neighbors, and users of PVC products is not theoretically inherent in the process, but in fact occurs due to inevitable lapses in production quality control and housekeeping.|
Findings of Lead in PVC toys:
LIST OF INFANT TOYS (INCLUDING TEETHERS) MADE FROM PVC, AND TOYS MADE FROM OTHER PLASTICS (Compiled by Greenpeace in 1997. This list may be out-of-date. Inclusion in this list does not indicate whether or not any specific toy contains lead or cadmium)
Update, Jan. '99:
VARIOUS REACTIONS TO THE GREENPEACE STUDIES ON PVC TOYS: NIKE'S OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT, MORE ACTION IN EUROPE. Comment by scientists and health professionals; response from the toy industry and the Consumer Product Safety Commisssion; rebuttals by the Environmental Quality Institute (Testing lab) and Greenpeace; letter to V.P. Al Gore, signed by over 20 health professionals; Austria bans PVC toys; Nike eliminates PVC from products and plant construction.