Summary and Conclusions
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC, or Vinyl) is one of the most commonly used materials in the
consumer marketplace. We find it in packaging, construction and automotive material,
all categories of products, including toys, and medical equipment.
contains Phthalates, which accumulate in body tissues, and can damage liver, lungs, and
have been shown in lower mammals to damage reproductive organs. Phthalates are
freely given off by plastics in which it occurs, and because it is fat soluble, is found
in quantity in meats and cheeses wrapped in PVC packaging.
Phthalates show almost no toxicity in adult humans in acute (short term) doses, even at
high doses, the cumulative nature of phthalate toxicity results in toxic effects
even at very low dosage when ingested chronically (over a long period of
time). Very young infants do not metabolize Phthalates as well as adults, and
so are at greater risk of harm. The common availability of Phthalates
consumer environment causes inevitable chronic ingestion for almost all modern industrial
consumers. [More detail below]
A minority of popular mass-market children's products have been found to contain
lead. The lead becomes available as dust on the product surface as the product
ages. Lead is a cumulative poison, is stored in bone, and results in irreversible
nervous system damage when ingested by young children, particularly ages 1 to
3. Extremely low blood levels have been reliably correlated with behavioral
deficits in humans, as well as biochemical changes. No level of chronic lead intake
may be regarded as safe for children. [More
It is not obvious from the product or packaging which PVC juvenile products contain lead
and which do not. In fact, it is not always easy to tell by looking which plastic
products are made of PVC. There is tendency of manufacturers to resist efforts to
obtain this information.
[Read an example below]
In place of lead, most PVC uses organic tin compounds
(Organotins), which are suspected of having harmful effects on immune and reproductive
systems. We have not personally read research indicating significant
availability for ingestion of Organotins on product surfaces.
It must be noted that all
common commercial plastics, and other polymers, including rubber, contain
additives, the safety of which we have not reviewed for this report.
Vinyl Chloride Monomer
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.
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.
For these reasons, we recommend that toys or other items
containing Vinyl not be used for children under three years of age, during which
period children tend to mouth or chew non-food objects. Further, we recommend that
consumers attempt to ascertain which PVC products used for older children, or, for that
matter, present in the home environment, contain lead, and dispose of those items [More detail below].
Other avoidable sources of lead include:
*glazes used in "hobby" ceramics (don't eat from utensils made with these
materials). Lead glazes are also used in some cheaper imported ceramic
*lead seals on older wine bottles (wash off the neck before popping the cork, wipe out the
inside of the neck, and discard the top ounce) (If it melts easily, it's lead.)
Because lead stored in bone becomes available during
pregnancy and lactation, female children are at particular long-term risk from
To reduce exposure to Phthalates, we
recommend that consumers wash with fairly hot water the top layers of packaged cheeses and
meats, and store them in polypropylene or polyethylene bags or containers, or preferably
in glass and ceramic. Vinyl utensils should not be used for hot foods, particularly
infant feeding, since warming increases emissions of phthalates.
patients, particularly those undergoing transfusion and dialysis, should inquire if
tubing and other equipment not made from PVC is available.
We would like to see manufacturers of PVC
products identify the products as such; and also to identify the percentage of hazardous
ingredients such as lead or Phthalates when present. This would actually serve to
incease consumer confidence in such products, since use of them would be a conscious and
informed choice, and the products could be used where necessary and appropriate.
It does not seem to us that current technology and the modern economy could
do entirely without the use of PVC; but some present applications would be better served
by some other material. Faith in the genius of technology also suggests that
polymers can be designed with PVC's good traits, and without its dangers.
We see the
problem for the industry as one of quality control and chemical engineering, not one of
spin control and public relations.
NEVER, EVER BURN HOUSEHOLD OR CONSTRUCTION WASTE CONTAINING ANY SORT OF PLASTIC.
PVC, Polyurethane, and other plastics give off highly toxic and potentially deadly gases
when burned at low temperature.
How do we know all this?
What is PVC?
Polyvinyl Chloride is a polymer, or large chain-like molecule, made up of
repeating units of Vinyl Chloride (a monomer).
Commonly referred to as Vinyl or PVC, it is exceeded
only by polypropylene and polyethylene in the variety of products which are
made from it. Other common commercial polymers used for familiar products
are polyurethane and polystyrene. We find PVC in car interiors and trim,
wall coverings, floor tiles, window frames, siding, water and sewer pipes, shrink wrap,
packaging (including blister packs and food wraps), medical equipment
transfusion bags, blood storage bags, respiration tubes), electric and electronic
cable insulation, textiles, both as trim and complete garments - and Toys.
PVC can be a tough, rigid material, or soft and flexible, depending on the use of
additives. It is denser than other plastics, and so preferred by food processors for
packaging. Additives include anti-oxidants (heat and light stabilizers)
to extend the life of the plastic, and plasticizers to allow a precise
degree of flexibility.
All polymers, in a perfectly pure state, at room temperature,
are completely non-toxic, since they are nearly inert and insoluble.
However, all commercial polymers require a variety of additives.
They all undergo degradation and decomposition when exposed to heat during
formulation or molding into products. They also tend to break down when subject to
the mechanical stress of molding or extrusion. Finally, all products made from
polymers are degraded by the light, heat, stress, and air pollution encountered in
everyday use. For this reason, one or more stabilizers are required
for each type of plastic.
Stabilizers in PVC: PVC has the
special problem of forming HCl (Hydrochloric Acid) when it degrades, which causes a chain
reaction which proceeds rapidly to complete loss of strength (and causes damage to
manufacturing equipment). The stabilizers for PVC have thus mostly been metal
salts, which could react with the HCl. These have included Lead, Cadmium, Barium,
Calcium, Zinc, and organic Tin compounds. The first two are known poisons.
appears that Cadmium is not much used any more. There are varying accounts in the
literature we have seen concerning the prevalence of Lead as a stabilizer.
to an Australian document dated 1996, it is still quite widely used.
Lead is not used where a clear Vinyl is required.
covering, food packages, tubing, etc, use Organic Tin Compounds (Organotins) or
Calcium/Zinc. There have been some findings linking Organotins to Reproductive and
immune system problems. A compound similar to ones used in PVC is used in marine
antifouling paint, and has been blamed for destruction of marine life in
harbours. Australia has banned the use of of this Organotin.
Stabilizers are not chemically bound to the PVC polymer
chains. Only the amount of stabilizers which reacts with damaged parts of
the polymer become chemically bound. Whether mixed in during formulation, or into
the melt during manufacturing, stabilizer molecules are held in place when the melt
freezes, like objects in an ice cube. Heat Stabilizers are typically added at
the rate of about .5 percent (.005) of the polymer. Metal salts (like lead
carbonate, etc) don't "like" to be mixed into an organic polymer, and so tend to
clump and migrate when the polymer is heated, or in surface areas subject to weathering
and stress. For this reason, we expect the stabilizer to accumulate on the surface
in normal use, especially if the product is exposed to heat, stress, or light,
particularly direct sunlight. Smith (1996) cites the leaching of lead from new PVC
Availability of Lead in Toys:
1995, the Arizona Department of Health Services, responding to the lead poisoning of
children in situations where no obvious source existed, found the source to be rigid Vinyl
miniblinds in the children's rooms. There were very large amounts of lead dust on
the PVC blinds, as well as lead dust on the windowsills below. Two of the children had
been chewing on the blinds themselves. At first, the CPSC declined to identify the
blinds as a hazard, but in June 1996 they agreed to do so.
sampling in North Carolina found miniblinds to be a lead hazard, with surface lead dust
exceeding federal standards by as much as 100-fold. No formal recall was ever
issued, despite vigorous urgings by the authorities of both states. The Window
Covering Safety Council, throughout all this, put out press releases reassuring consumers
that the lead found in the blinds did not constitute a hazard to children.
Motivated by this finding, Greenpeace collected some popular mass-market PVC toys,
and contracted with two independent laboratories to test for the presence of lead.
In short, they found that about 20 percent of the toys tested contained Lead,
Cadmium, or both. In many of the toys, the levels were high enough to exceed federal
guidelines. They repeated this process in several major U.S. urban areas, with
similar results. Their complete report is provided on this website (from link in
section below). The CPSC performed a small-scale replication of the study.
They obtained roughly similar results, but concluded that the lead found on the surface of
the tested toys did not constitute a health hazard to children. Their conclusion was
based on assumptions, definitions, and interpretations, rather than substantially
different quantitative findings.
CPSC concluded that Greenpeace mis-interpreted its own results, by making errors in basic
science, and wrong assumptions about children's behavior. They concluded the products
tested, even ones containing Lead, were not hazardous to children, because the daily
dosage of poisons ingested were below hazardous levels. Health Canada performed a similar
evaluation, with identical conclusions and interpretation. Environ
Corporation, a think-tank hired by the Vinyl Industry Association, offered similar
"findings", although did no actual laboratory work. These reports are also
posted on this website (see "links" below).
CPSC, Environ, and Health Canada, criticized the Greenpeace study
principally on four grounds:
1. Accelerated aging tests using exposure to ultraviolet light were
not valid, because the toys tested by Greenpeace would not be exposed to ultraviolet
radiation in normal use, unlike the miniblinds in the sunny windows.
2. Great variations in city-to-city lead measurements, and variations
from the CPSC results for the same toy indicates defects in Greenpeace's laboratory
3. A criticism of the Greenpeace study is inherent in CPSC's decision not
to test the lead content of the electronic cables tested by Greenpeace, on the basis that
children would not be expected to handle this material.
4. Estimates of amounts of lead a child would ingest by handling these
toys were in error, since a child would not handle the entire object at once. Thus, amount
of lead dust per unit area are a more correct measure than total dust on surface of item.
Assuming certain values for a child's hand size, amount of daily handling,
and correlations of blood levels with amounts ingested, the critics concluded that the
resulting blood lead levels would remain below established Federal standard of
Responding to the first comment:
The critics are incorrect on a point of basic scientific information, and deficient in
simple observations of child behavior and demographics. The miniblinds were exposed
to light transmitted through glass, as well as the resulting heat. "Glass in
general is opaque to the ultraviolet and infrared". (Physics and Chemistry Handbook,
1964 edition ). Carbon-carbon and carbon-hydrogen bonds are broken far more
readily by shorter than by longer wavelengths. Any toy likely to be played with
outdoors, or inadvertently left outside, would receive far more short wavelength
ultraviolet light, available only in direct sunlight. A number of the toys
analyzed by Greenpeace are in that category; some might even be used as beach toys.
In a large sub-tropical metropolis like Los Angeles or Miami,
rapid disintegration of sun-exposed PVC, as well as rubber and other polymers,
Responding to the second comment: The analysis was not
performed by Greenpeace, but by two accredited and professionally staffed labs,
specializing in lead analysis. The variations in percent lead content are far more likeley
due to poor quality control at the manufacturing plants which processed the PVC resin. The
very highest numbers, well over the theoretically useful quantities for metal salt
stabilizers, are probably just due to gross over-use of the additives, which is something
that would occur on a random basis.
Responding to the omission of testing of cable insulation: It is
not productive to make such assumptions about children's behavior. Children can, and
eventually will, handle everything in their daily surroundings. We have an article
from Centers for Disease Control reporting the severe lead poisoning of adult
electronics worker who had developed the habit of chewing on lead-stabilized
PVC electric insulation. Lead hazard is thus not just a problem for children; but
the point is that children are especially at risk, due to their unpredictable behavior and
greater sensitivity to the toxic effects of lead.
Responding to the fourth criticism, we consider the
toxicology of Lead: In short, the daily intake of lead is not as
important a determinant of ultimate harm as is the duration of exposure and the total lead
ingested over time. This is due to the cumulative nature of lead toxicity.
Lead at very low blood levels causes a very wide variety of changes in neural
functioning. It interferes with transmission of nerve signals both by disruption of
Calcium ion balance along the nerve axon, and at the synapse, by bonding to Calcium
receptor sites. Lead can modify gene expression and gene-regulated
protein synthesis. Lead exposure interferes in a variety of ways with the developing
brain at the neuroanatomical level. Prolonged exposure to low levels of lead changes
the response of various neurotransmitter systems. Consistent and reproducible
behavioral effects have been seen with blood lead levels as low as 7 µg/dl (micrograms of
lead per tenth liter of blood), which is below the Federal standard of 10
The CPSC suggests in its report that "chronic ingestion of lead be limited to
15µg per day" to prevent children of 6 years and younger from exceeding the 10
µg/dl blood lead level. It is not clear from the CPSC report how the daily
ingestion rate translates to the suggested maximum blood level.
In any case, there is good reason to assert that the daily intake of lead for a child is
not relevant to a discussion of the hazards of the material. Lead is a uniquely
cumulative poison. Some of the kinds of neurological damage caused by lead are not
reversible. The period from 1 to 3 years of age in humans is critical for lead
exposure, and neural damage occuring during this period is least likely to be
Most important, children excrete lead very slowly. Lead behaves chemically
very much like Calcium, and is similarly stored in bone. Bone is in a dynamic
equilibrium, biologically and chemically, with blood. If the rate of lead intake is
reduced, lead will enter blood from bone. Thus, a daily exposure, however low,
builds up a "savings account" of lead, which may persist for decades.
During periods of high calcium demand, as in lactation and pregnancy, lead enters the
blood along with the calcium. In older people, when bone mass is reduced by
resorption, higher lead levels have been observed. This is especially true of
post-menopausal women, who are greater risk of osteoporosis. (It thus seems that
female children are at particular risk from lead ingestion.)
It is also important to be aware that the lead available from the tested products would
not be the only source of exposure in a child's environment. Although substantial
and very successful efforts have been made in the past twenty years to reduce
environmental lead (removal of lead paint and banning its use in most applications, the
elimination of leaded gasoline and lead plumbing solder), there are still other sources of
lead exposure. Due to the years of environmental accumulation, children are still
exposed to other sources of lead beside toys. Since all lead exposure is additive as
well as cumulative, it is important to eliminate any source of exposure when it is within
our power to do so.
For these reasons, we feel it is reasonable to assert that the series of calculations
presented by CPSC to arrive at the conclusion that the lead found in some toys is not a
hazard, is not helpful in ensuring safety for children.
The PVC polymer chains form an attraction to one another which
produces a very rigid plastic. When a soft or flexible plastic is required, a
plasticizer is added to allow the chains to slide against each other. Phthalates are
the most commonly used in PVC. DEHP (Di-Ethylhexyl Phthalate) has been the most
commonly used, but in the past few years, DINP (Di-Isononyl Phthalate) has been used
more frequently. Semi-rigid PVC contains about 10 percent
phthalates; flexible PVC, as much as 50 percent by weight.
Phthalates migrate easily out of the PVC polymer, since it is not at all bound to the PVC
molecule. DEHP is nearly insoluble in water, but highly soluble in fats and oils.
When used in medical tubing, it has been found to accumulate in blood, lung, and liver
tissue, as well as in fat. In fatty foods, such as butter, cheese, and prepared meat
products packaged in PVC, significant amounts of DEHP or DINP have been found in surface
layers. DEHP does not vaporize easily at room temperature, but does migrate out of
the plastic as a vapor over 30° C (86° F), and has been found in the
airstream of medical respiratory tubing. Under relatively slight pressure,
phthalates will exude from PVC. As little as 1/10 kilogram per square centimeter
(1.4 lb/sq. inch) can result in loss of 30% of the plasticizer. (PVC Handbook,
from C. P. Hall, plasticizer manufacturer).
The CPSC and the Dutch government, in laboratory simulations of children's sucking and
chewing behavior, have recently concluded that although children using PVC teethers would
indeed swallow significant amounts of Phthalates, these amounts are too small on a daily
basis to present a hazard.
Again, the issue is the cumulative nature of the toxic effects. Studies of liver
damage in rats have been criticized as inapplicable to humans, since the kinds of
pre-cancerous cellular changes (peroxisomes) seen in rats with experimental
short-term high dosage does not cause the same changes in humans or other primates.
But in fact, the changes do occur in primates, including humans; it just takes
longer. Dialysis patients using PVC tubing showed peroxisomes after a year of
treatment. Clear signs of liver damage were seen in monkeys receiving
transfusions over the period of a year. In a discussion of Phthalate
toxicity, it is worth quoting verbatim one of our sources [Ganning A.E., Brunk U., Dallner
J. (1984) Phthalate Esters and their Effect on the Liver. Hepatology V4 No 3,
"Monkeys transfused weekly for 1 year with blood stored in
PVC bags accumulated and stored these substances in various tissues over a long period of
time. Analyses of liver, heart, testis and fat show appreciable amounts of
phthalates at 5 and 14 months after termination of regular transfusions."
detailed analysis of phthalate ester accumulation in humans is available. DEHP was
identified in fat tissue of people who were autopsied after traffic accidents.
extensive transfusion of pediatric patients, liver and lungs contained relatively high,
and kidney and spleen had relatively low, amounts of DEHP at postmortem"
"The acute toxicity of phthalate esters is low and human consumption of gram
quantities is without any major adverse effects. All observations so far made in
this field suggest a slowly increasing chronic toxicity... Reviewing the literature,
it is striking that many investigators do not consider the time factor;
appropriate results, many cases require a long observation period. ...cumulative
toxic effect [was] demonstrated in several investigations. If the 50% lethal dose is
established for a laboratory animal and the administration of phthalate esters is
continued, the intermittent dose necessary to reach the level of 50% lethal dose decreases
gradually. This decrease is substantial and ranges between 5- and 40-fold.
means, theoretically, that even very low doses may, after continuous administration, reach
"Chronic intake and accumulation to a deleterious level may require 30 to 40
years. We have reason top believe that accumulating toxicity is valid for humans.
Therefore, threshold valuesrecommended by authorities as nontoxic have little or no
relevance. Extensive use of PVC materials in homes, medical care, and as food
packaging material started only during the 1960's, which means that evaluation of chronic
human toxicity cannot be performed until around 2000 to 2020!..."
This last paragraph suggests that by now (1999), we ought to be
seeing an epidemic of liver disease and other illnesses related to the significant chronic
exposure of modern industrial populations to Phthalates. There is no question that
we are eating a lot of the stuff; there does remain the question of whether, in
fact, it has actually done any harm to adults.
The evidence is stronger that phthalates are a danger to
young infants. In a 1988 German study, preterm infants receiving
respiratory assistance utilizing PVC tubing accumulated significant amounts of DEHP in
their lungs, developing unusual lung disorders resembling hyaline membrane disease.
The authors make the point that the livers of very young infants do not metabolize
DEHP as efficiently as those of adults, placing infants at higher risk.
suggest that the damage to testicular and related structures seen in rats may be more
relevant to preterm infants than to adult humans, again because of slower/less complete
REFERENCES and LINKS (return to website to access linked documents and pages
referred to below)
PVC Technical references
E.D. Owen, ed. Degradation & Stabilization of
PVC Elsevier, London 1984
N. Grassie, G. Scott Polymer Degradation & Stabilization.
Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge 1985
"[Dehydrochlorination thermal degradation]
reaction occurs so readily, that it has been said that if poly(vinyl) chloride had not
been discovered until the present time it would have been discarded after preliminary
assessment as unsuitable for commercial development in competition with existing
W. Tötsch, H.Gaensslen Polyvinylchloride: Environmental
Aspects of a Common Plastic. Elsevier, London 1990
Matthews, George PVC: Production, Properties, and Uses. The Institute of
Materials 1996 ISBN 0 901716 59 6 University Press, Cambridge
M. Sittig, Ed. Vinyl Chloride and PVC Manufacture: Process and
Environmental Aspects. Noyes Data Corp., Park Ridge, NJ 1978
Dr. Russell Composto, School of Engineering and Materials Science,
University of Pennsylvania: Private communication.
Deborah A. Cory-Slechta, Joel G. Pounds Lead Neurotoxicity
L.W. Chang, R.S. Dyer, ed., Handbook of Neurotoxicology.
Dekker, Inc New York 1995
Dr. Deborah A. Corey Slechta, Department of Environmental
Medicine, Univ. of Rochester School of Medicine, Rochester, NY: Private
Findings of Lead in
THE GREENPEACE STUDIES FINDING CADMIUM & LEAD IN
Environ Corp. comments on
the original Greenpeace Lead/Cadmium study
CPSC Replication of
Greenpeace Lead/Cadmium study
Lead intoxication associated with chewing
plastic wire coating.
Kelley, M., Watson, P., Thorton, D., and Halpin, T. J. Morbidity and
Mortality Weekly Report 42:465-467. 1993
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)
Ganning A.E., Brunk U., Dallner J. (1984) Phthalate Esters and
their Effect on the Liver. Hepatology V4 No 3, Pp 541-547
B. Roth and others,
"Di-(2-ethylhexyl)-pththalate as plasticizer in PVC respiratory tubing systems:
indications of hazardous effects on pulmonary function in mechanically ventilated, preterm
infants," EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF PEDIATRICS Vol. 147 (1988), pgs. 41-46.
Jacobson M.S., Kevy S.V., Grand R.J. (1977) Effects
of Plasticizer leached from polyvinyl chloride on the subhuman primate: a consequence of
chronic transfusion therapy. J. Lab. Clin. Med., 89: 1066-1079 [Applicability of rhesus monkey data to humans is established;
1 year chronic infusion with PVC blood bags, clear signs of change in liver function and
cell damage in rhesus monkey are seen]
More on Phthalates:
TOXICOLOGY AND POLITICS
Government study attempts to replicate and quantify infant exposure to Phthalates from
Fact sheet on DEHP in Drinking Water
Industry response to evaluations of Phthalate toxicity
MORE ON PHTHALATE PLASTICIZERS
Monomer (VCM) Drinking Water Fact Sheet (U.S. EPA report)
ORGANOTIN TOXICITY STUDIES: REFERENCES
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.
DIOXINS AND ENVIRONMENTAL SAFETY...
Attribution and Authorship
These pages were compiled by Ed Loewenton, president of 18th Century Industries, Inc.,
corporate parent of the Elwood Turner Company, which owns and maintains the turnertoys.com
Mr. Loewenton also wrote all the commentary not attributed to Greenpeace or to
other research or academic resources. Mr. Loewenton received an MS in Psychology
from the University of Pennsylvania in 1969, and received 16 credits toward a doctorate.
He was a Chemistry minor as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania.
His course work included five semesters of chemistry, including two of organic;
with a total of 4 semesters in the laboratory. As an undergraduate, he worked as a
research assistant in the clinical chemistry department of the University of Pennsylvania
Hospital (Spruce Street), working on serum protein electrophoresis. His studies also
include four semesters of statistics. He has published two studies in the field of
Psychology: one in the field of Economic Psychology (senior authorship), the other (third
of five authors) on attitude formation. As a graduate student he did unpublished
research on collective behavior and physiology of REM sleep in newborn mammals. He worked
briefly as a senior staff Psychologist at Pennhurst State Hospital, where he evaluated
staff performance (including that of Psychiatric and Medical personnel) and designed
behavior modification programs. It is Mr. Loewenton's assertion that he is fully
capable of evaluating the research, assumptions, and arguments in the present issue,
albeit with continuing background study, in which he is engaged as time permits.
The Greenpeace material on Lead and Cadmium was researched and written
by Joseph Di Gangi, PhD and his associates. Dr.DiGangi is an employee of
Greenpeace, and has facilities in Chicago. Dr. Di Gangi provided us with
additional material and clarifications via email. Dr. Di Gangi received a PhD in
molecular biology and biochemistry from the University of California at Irvine in 1986,
and joined the Greenpeace staff in 1997. The material on Phthalates comes from a
variety of sources (authorship specified in each article).. Three laboratory sources
were used for Greenpeace's work on vinyl toys. The lead/cadmium experimental work
was conducted entirely by independent laboratories.
*Phthalates: Greenpeace Research Laboratories, University of Exeter,
Department of Biological Sciences, Exeter, UK. Greenpeace laboratory with expertise
in analysis of organic chemicals and metals.
*Lead and cadmium: Stat Analysis, Chicago, IL. AIHA and NVLAP accredited.
Commercial analytical laboratory that peforms work for lead abatement companies and the
Chicago Public Schools.
*Lead and cadmium: Environmental Quality Institute, (EQI) University of
North Carolina-Asheville. AIHA, NVLAP, ILLAP accredited. One of the foremost lead research
laboratories in the U.S. with numerous research projects conducted for the EPA, Attorney
General of California, Centers for Disease Control, State of North Carolina, and City of
New York. BACK
TO TOP OF PAGE
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.
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.
DETERMINATION OF THE COMPOSITION AND
QUANTITIES OF PHTHALATE ESTER ADDITIVES IN PVC CHILDREN'S TOYS Written by Ruth Stringer, Irina Labounskaia, Dr. David Santillo, Dr.
Paul Johnston, John Siddorn, and Angela Stephenson (BACK)
PVC (polyvinyl chloride or vinyl) is widely used in toys and other children's products.
For soft applications, such as toys designed for chewing ("teethers"), softeners
or plasticisers are added to give the desired flexibility. Although a range of chemicals
are used as softeners, phthalate esters (phthalates) are by far the most commonly used.
Phthalates do not bind to the PVC, remaining present as a freely mobile and
leachable phase in the plastic. As a consequence, phthalates are continuously lost from
soft PVC over time. Contact and pressure, such as that applied during teething or play,
can increase the rates at which these chemicals leach from the plastic. [The "PVC Handbook" from C. P. Hall, manufacturer of Phthalates
and other plasticizers, includes data showing that plasticizers are exuded from the
polymer under a minimum of pressure: .1 kg/cm2 can cause a loss of up to 30% of the
Children in contact with soft PVC toys may, therefore, ingest substantial quantities of
phthalates during normal play, especially from toys specifically designed to be chewed.
This is of concern as phthalates are known to present a number of hazards. Although acute
toxicity appears to be low, phthalates have been shown to cause a range of adverse effects
in laboratory animals following longer exposure, including damage to the liver and kidney
and, in some cases, effects on the reproductive tract.
The limited research available to date on the composition of phthalates in PVC toys has
raised concerns over the potential for exposure of children to these chemicals. Despite
this, manufacturers do not provide information on the types or quantities of additives
present in toys. Greenpeace was interested, therefore, to obtain a range of typical soft
PVC toys from a number of countries, particularly those designed to be chewed, and to
determine the types and quantities of plasticisers present.
A total of 71 toys were purchased, drawn from 17 countries, the majority of which (63)
were PVC or had PVC sections. In almost all soft PVC toys analysed, phthalates comprised a
sizeable proportion (most frequently 10-40%) of the total weight of the toy. Although
historically the most commonly used phthalate was DEHP (di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate), the
most frequently identified, and generally most abundant, phthalate in the current
investigation was the isomeric form DINP (diisononyl phthalate). Of the 63 PVC toys
analysed, 40 contained DINP as the predominant phthalate, compared to only 8 for DEHP.
DEHP was also present as a minor component of many of the toys containing DINP, perhaps as
a contaminant in the DINP. Of the 8 non-PVC toys analysed, only one contained any
detectable phthalate, and then only in trace quantities (possibly as a contaminant from
the PVC in which it was packaged).
Although less well researched than DEHP, DINP shows similar toxicological properties in
laboratory animals. Effects recorded include liver and kidney disorders, damage to the
reproductive tract, increased incidence of certain forms of cancer and diverse effects on
development and metabolism. More recently, research has revealed that DINP, along with
some other phthalates, shows weak activity as a mimic of the hormone estrogen in human
cell lines. When purchased for laboratory use, DINP is labelled with a number of hazard
phrases, including "harmful by inhalation, in contact with skin and if
swallowed", "possible risk of irreversible effects" and "may cause
cancer". In contrast, toys containing up to 40% by weight DINP in a readily leachable
form are frequently labelled "non toxic".
A number of other compounds were identified in some of the toys, generally at lower but
significant concentrations. DBP (dibutyl phthalate) and BBP (butylbenzyl phthalate), found
in several toys, are known to be particularly hazardous. The estrogenic chemical
nonylphenol was isolated from 13 toys, while 2 toys were found to contain the fungicide
Fungitrol 11 (Folpet).
The rates at which chemicals leach from soft PVC were not determined in this study.
Nevertheless, the presence of these chemicals in such quantities in toys designed to be
chewed by babies and young children, along with published evidence that such additives are
hazardous and can leach from PVC toys, raises serious concerns. The Danish EPA has
recently demonstrated that the leaching of phthalates, particularly DINP, from teething
toys can be substantial. This has been supported by similar studies in other countries and
has led, in some cases, to recommendations that certain toys be withdrawn or even that the
use of soft PVC in toys for young children should be discontinued.
The study carried out by Greenpeace has demonstrated that phthalates, particularly DINP
and DEHP, are widely and abundantly used in high contact children's toys. Their use
represents a significant potential for exposure of children to chemical hazards, of
particular concern during sensitive periods of development. Although it is practically
impossible to make accurate predictions of dose, exposure to such hazards is clearly
unacceptable. The only way to avoid direct intake of phthalates is to eliminate the use of
PVC in all soft toy applications. (BACK)
GO TO PAGE ON TOXICOLOGY, PREVALANCE,
AND POLITICS OF PHTHALATES
letter from Hasbro Corporation, Pawtucket, RI
May 19, 1998
Ms. Anette McCullough
Kids Stuff Catalog Co
4450 Belden Village St NW
Canton, OH 44718
We are in receipt of your request for a list of products containing PVC. Unfortunately, it
is our policy not to divulge proprietary information in regard to the manufacturing
materials and processes used on our products. Of course, as a valued customer of
Hasbro, we would like to assure you that we conduct stringent testing and analysis on
products, materials,and the process that we use to make those products before we ship them
to our customers.
...It has been our conclusion, as well as that of the toxicologist that we use to evaluate
our products, and, I might add, that of the United States Consumer Products Safety
Commission, that the evidence does not indicate that PVC or the Phthalaes used in PVC are
acute or chronic threats to users' health. We have had a policy for many years not
to use lead and cadmium, as well as other heavy metals in our products.
...The toy industry, in general, has been concerned with the information that has been
disseminated on the issue of PVC, and has for the past two years had a task force that has
reviewed and evaluated the issue....
PLAYSKOOL BABY, INC.
Malcolm J. Dennis
Senior Vice President