Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

About PVC
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) requires the addition of chemical softeners (e.g. plasticizers such as phthalates) and stabilizers (e.g. heavy metals such as lead and cadmium) among numerous toxic additives. These additives are generally not chemically bound to the polymer, meaning they have the ability to leach out during normal use. In some products, these additives can account for half the weight of the product. Evidence for the health impacts for some of these chemicals have been known for many years while it is increasing for some others.

How am I exposed?
People are exposed to PVC through air, dust, food, or direct exposure from medical devices. Children can come into contact with the toxic additives in PVC products through chewing or sucking, normal hand-to-mouth behavior, and through their release in air and dust as the products age. Everyone has measurable levels of these chlorinated toxins in their bodies.

Why should I be concerned?
PVC has been linked to severe health problems including cancer, immune system damage, and hormone disruption.

What can government and business do?

  • State and federal governments should halt the expansion of PVC industry and begin to phase out PVC products such as home furnishings, building materials, cosmetics, children’s toys and medical devices.
  • Businesses should phase out PVC and other potentially harmful toxic chemicals out of their products and look toward safer alternative chemicals.
  • Hospitals should phase out PVC medical devices.

How can I reduce my exposure?

  • Avoid buying vinyl/PVC products whenever possible, and reduce your overall use of plastics. Products marked with the #3 recycling symbol contain PVC.
  • Buy plastic wrap made from polyethylene, and shower curtains made from cotton, polyester, or nylon.

Additional Resources
The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow: Hazards of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Children’s Products
The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow: PVC Charts: Hazardous Chemicals in PVC Children’s Products
Green Peace: PVC: The Poison Plastic