Top Ten Reasons Your School Should Go PVC-Free


 

1. Children More At Risk from Toxic Chemicals

Children are not "little adults" - their developing brains and bodies, their metabolism and behaviors make them uniquely vulnerable to harm from toxic chemicals such as those released by the PVC lifecycle:

2. The Production of PVC Involves Cancer-Causing Chemicals

PVC products are made from toxic chemicals. Three chemicals are at the core of PVC production: chlorine gas is converted into ethylene dichloride (EDC), which is then converted into vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), which is then converted into PVC ii. Both VCM and EDC are extremely hazardous. Vinyl chloride, the key building block of PVC, causes a rare form of liver cancer, and damages the liver and central nervous system iii. Vinyl chloride is one of the few chemicals the U.S. EPA classifies as a known human carcinogeniv . EDC is a probable human carcinogen that also affects the central nervous system and damages the liver v.

3. PVC Products Contain Phthalates & Other Toxic Chemicals

PVC products often contain toxic additives such as phthalates, lead and cadmium vi. Many of these additives are not chemically bound to the plastic and can migrate out of the product posing potential hazards to consumers vii. In some cases, these additives can be released from the product into the air inside your home vii,ix,x . Some phthalates have been linked to reproductive problems including shorter pregnancy duration xi, premature breast development in girls xii, sperm damage xiii, and impaired reproductive development in males xiv. Certain phthalates have now been banned in children’s toys in the United States effective February 2009 xv. Lead has been used to stabilize and is found in many different PVC productsxvi . PVC flooring and other PVC products can contribute to poorer indoor air quality as PVC products can offgass chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A study by the California Air Resources Board found forty chemicals, some of which are toxic, off-gassing from PVC flooringxvii. Another study found PVC flooring can emit chemicals for a period of at least nine months, indicating a persistent risk of toxic exposurexviii. A study of PVC shower curtains found just one new vinyl shower curtain can release 108 VOC’s into the air over a 28-day period. A number of the chemicals are classified as hazardous air pollutants by the EPA, and even worse, many are untested.xix

4. PVC, Asthma and Autism – Are Schoolchildren, Teachers, and Custodians at Risk?

Asthma is a serious, sometimes life-threatening respiratory disease that affects 7 million American children and 16 million adultsxx . An average of one out of every 13 school-age children has asthma. In fact, asthma is a leading cause of school absenteeism: 14.7 million school days are missed each year due to asthmaxxi. In recent years, a number of studies have found a correlation between phthalates emitted from PVC building products and asthma:

5. PVC and Hazardous Chemicals in Our Babies and Bodies

In recent years, a growing body of scientific evidence has found that toxic chemicals released by the PVC lifecycle are trespassing into our bodies.

6. PVC Flooring and Unhealthy Cleaning Products

PVC flooring often requires the use of toxic cleaners to keep it durable and shiny. This wax and strip maintenance has long been a source of health concern due to the toxic VOCs such as formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) used in the maintenance products. A life cycle study of flooring installation and maintenance found that the amount of VOCs emitted from a single waxing of a floor may be comparable to the amount of VOCs emitted from the flooring itself over its entire life. While some PVC manufacturers have formulated “no wax” finishes for some of their flooring products, many PVC flooring products still require the use of toxic maintenance productsxxxix.

7. PVC and Dioxins

The formation of dioxin is a major concern in PVC’s lifecycle. When PVC is manufactured or burned as a waste material, or accidentally in landfill fires, burn barrels, accidental building and motor vehicle fires, numerous dioxins are formed and released into the air or water. The term ‘dioxin’ refers to a family of chemicals that are unintentionally made. They are generated as by-products during production and disposal of chlorinated compounds including PVC. Dioxins are a highly toxic group of chemicals that build up in the food chain, cause cancer and can harm the immune and reproductive systemsxl ,xli ,xlii . Dioxins have been targeted for global phase out by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutantsxliii . Dioxins have also been targeted for virtual elimination in the Great Lakes through the U.S. and Canadian Great Lakes Binational Toxics Strategyxliv .

8. PVC and Environmental Justice: PVC Plants Pollutes the Air and Groundwater of Surrounding Communities

PVC chemical plants are often located in or near low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, such as Mossville, Louisiana, making the production of PVC a major environmental justice concern. PVC manufacturing facilities have poisoned workers and fenceline neighbors, polluted the air, contaminated drinking water supplies, and even wiped entire neighborhoods off the map. Reveilletown, Louisiana was once a small African-American town adjacent to a PVC facility owned by Georgia-Gulf. In the 1980s, after a groundwater toxic plume of vinyl chloride began to seep under homes, Georgia-Gulf agreed to permanently evacuate the entire community of one hundred and six residentsxlv . In Pottstown, Pennsylvania, chemical waste dumped in lagoons at the OxyChem PVC plant contaminated groundwater and is now targeted for cleanup under the federal Superfund programxlvi . In Point Comfort, Texas, vinyl chloride was discovered in wells near a Formosa PVC chemical plant, and the company had to spend one million dollars cleaning up contaminated groundwaterxlvii .

9. Dumping PVC in Landfills Leaches Chemicals and Forms Dioxins

The land disposal of PVC product waste, especially flexible materials, also poses environmental and public health risks. As flexible PVC degrades in a landfill, toxic additives leach out of the waste into groundwater, which is especially problematic for unlined landfills xlviii, xlix, l, li. These additives also contribute to the formation of landfill gases lii, which are formed in municipal waste landfills liii, liv. In addition, there are over 8,400 landfill fires reported every year in the U.S. . These fires burn PVC waste and contribute to dioxin formation lvi. Land disposal is the final fate of between 2 and 4 billion pounds of PVC that are discarded every year at some 1,800 municipal waste landfills in the U.S. lvii.

10. PVC Contaminates and Ruins Recyclable Plastics

PVC packaging has a national recycling rate far lower than other plastics. Just 0.7% of PVC bottles were recycled in 2006, compared to 23.5% for PET plastic bottles and 26.4% for HDPE bottles lviii. According to the Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers, “PVC is a major contaminant to the PET bottle recycling stream.” lix. One PVC bottle can contaminate and ruin a recycling load of 100,000 recyclable PET bottles lx, if the PVC cannot be separated from the PET. This is because PET and PVC behave very differently when they are processed for recycling. PVC burns at a lower temperature than PET. It burns at the temperature that simply melts PET lxi, lxii. When this occurs, “black spots” get into the PET resin contaminating the batch and ruining or seriously downgrading the quality of recycled PET residue lxiii.

 

What Can I Do? Take Action for Healthy PVC-Free Schools

Safer and cost-effective alternatives are already available for virtually every PVC product in our nation’s schools. Here’s how you can help today:

 

References

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