Most common plastics pose serious threats to human health and the environment. The problems of plastics include extreme pollution from production, toxic chemical exposure during use, hazards from fires, and their contribution to the world’s growing solid waste crisis. But one plastic stands alone: PVC, throughout its lifecycle, is the most environmentally damaging of all plastics.
PVC is the most environmentally damaging plastic. The PVC lifecycle — its production, use, and disposal — results in the release of toxic, chlorine-based chemicals. These toxins are building up in the water, air and food chain.
The result: severe health problems, including cancer, immune system damage, and hormone disruption. No one can escape contamination: Everyone, everywhere has measurable levels of chlorinated toxins in their bodies.
What is PVC?
Over the past few decades, Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) plastic, commonly known as “vinyl,” has become one of the most widely-used types of plastics. We find it all around us: in packaging, home furnishings, children’s toys, automobile parts, building materials, hospital supplies, and hundreds of other products. Its advantages are that it is highly versatile and relatively inexpensive. But the price we pay for a low-cost and seemingly harmless piece of PVC pipe or soft vinyl toy is far steeper than it may at first appear.
In fact, this commonplace plastic is one of the biggest contributors to the flood of toxic substances saturating our planet and its inhabitants. PVC contaminates humans and the environment throughout its lifecycle during its production, use and disposal. While all plastics pose serious threats to human health and the environment, few consumers realize that PVC is the single most environmentally damaging of all plastics. Since safer alternatives are available for virtually all uses of PVC, it is possible to protect human health and the environment by replacing and eventually phasing out this poison plastic.
Chlorine: The Deadly Building Block in PVC
PVC production is the largest and fastest-growing use of chlorine — accounting for nearly 40 percent of all chlorine used in the United States. Chlorine is the basic building block of our most infamous toxic problems: CFCs which destroyed the ozone layer, the dioxin contamination at Love Canal and Times Beach, Agent Orange, PCBs and DDT pesticides. Hundreds of chlorine-based toxins are building up in the air, water and food chain. Many of these chemicals, called organochlorines, are resistant to breakdown and will remain in the environment for decades to come. Scientific studies reveal that these chemicals are linked to severe and wide-spread health problems, including infertility, immune system damage, impaired childhood development, hormone disruption, cancer and many other harmful effects.
Due to the chemical structure of organochlorines, humans and animals are unable to efficiently expel them from their bodies. Instead, many of these compounds accumulate in fatty tissue, resulting in contamination levels thousands or millions of times greater than is found in the surrounding environment. No one can escape contamination; every one of us has measurable amounts of chlorinated toxins in our bodies. And some organochlorines can impact on human life before birth, during the most delicate stages of development — a disastrous toxic legacy for future generations.
Dioxin: PVC’s Lethal Legacy
Dioxin and dioxin-like compounds are unintentionally created whenever chlorine-based chemicals are produced, used or burned. Evidence suggests that, throughout its entire lifecycle, PVC is responsible for a greater share of the nation’s annual dioxin burden than any other industrial product. Large amounts of dioxin are produced during the various stages of PVC production, and the abundance of PVC items in medical waste and garbage is one reason incinerators are considered the largest sources of dioxins. Thousands of accidental fires in buildings containing PVC result in releases of dioxin in ash and soot, contaminating both the environment and the affected building.
Dioxin is known as one of the most toxic chemicals ever produced. In its ongoing study of dioxin, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that there is no safe level of dioxin exposure. Thus any dose, no matter how low, can result in severe health damage. The EPA has also concluded that the levels of dioxin currently found in most adults and children are already high enough to present significant health threats to the American public.
I have said no to PVC for years knowing the off gasses will pollute the environment where it is installed for years and years. As far as PVC pipe when it began here in Illinois the Primer and Cement can had the Skull and Cross Bones on thee label with a warning that stated is is dangerous to inhale and can cause cancer. But the lobbyist were able to have that removed. The computer that you will read this comment on is more than likely PVC. Just cutting PVC with a saw will cause harm to that person.