Companies like Nike and IKEA are committed to removing Polyvinyl Chloride, more commonly known as PVC, from all of their products. When companies abruptly decide to stop using certain materials, it causes one to question why, what the material is, and what effect it is having on people as well as the environment.
According to Greenpeace International, PVC is one of the most widely used plastics, and it can be found in “a wide range of consumer products such as packaging, cling film, bottles, credit cards, audio records and imitation leather as well as construction materials such as window frames, cables, pipes, flooring, wallpaper, and window blinds.” In addition to those uses, hospitals also use Polyvinyl Chloride as medical disposables and car manufacturers use it for the car interiors. So, if it’s so widely used, how is it harming us and why is it taking so long to eliminate it completely?
Health Care Without Harm, an organization that promotes the health of people and the environment, reports that PVC produces both dioxin and DEHP. Dioxin can cause cancer and kidney problems in humans, and is formed as Polyvinyl Chloride is manufactured or destroyed through incineration. DEHP, a phthalate that is used to soften PVC, can cause birth defects and a variety of other health problems in humans.
In order to combat the harmful effects PVC can have in children, The Center for Health, Environment, & Justice launched the PVC-free schools campaign. To help educate families on the effects PVC can have on children’s health and the environment, they developed multiple pamphlets warning schools to eliminate Polyvinyl Chloride from all toys and other school materials.
According to one of CHEJ’s reports, “Phthalates such as DEHP have been linked to reproductive problems including shorter pregnancy duration and premature breast development in girls and sperm damage and impaired reproductive development in boys. Some studies have also found a correlation between phthalates and obesity.” The Center for Health, Environment, & Justice also reports that children who live in homes with vinyl floors are twice as likely to have autism, and even though President Bush outlawed PVC in all children’s toys in 2008, it is still widely found in schools in flooring and other building materials.
To reduce the amount of Polyvinyl Chloride that children are exposed to, flooring should be replaced to eliminate PVC and non-toxic cleaning materials should be used. In order to eliminate PVC from your children’s lives, The Center for Health, Environment, & Justice suggests encouraging your school to renovate with PVC-products, to adopt a PVC-free building policy, and to make sure the school supplies (including binders, paperclips, etc.) you are purchasing for your children are PVC-free.