SPI's Flexible Vinyl Products CommitteeSPI's Flexible Vinyl Products Division


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But Is Flexible PVC Really Safe?

Are humans exposed to toxic levels of chemicals associated with production use or disposal of PVC?

  • Vinyl chloride monomer?  No.
  • Mercury?  No.
  • Dioxin?  No.
  • Chlorine?  No.
  • Hydrochloric acid?  No.

Does PVC production expose plant workers or the general public (plant neighbors, PVC end users) to dangerous levels of vinyl chloride monomer (VCM)?

No.  VCM is a proven human carcinogen.  It causes a rare type of liver cancer.  This VCM-cancer link was discovered by the PVC industry in the 1970's and the industry immediately took steps to greatly reduce worker and consumer exposure to VCM.  There have been no cases of PVC-related liver cancers reported in the US since the 1970s.
Resource: Vinyl Institute

Does PVC production expose plant workers or the general public (plant neighbors, PVC end users) to dangerous levels of mercury?

No.  Mercury is a heavy metal with proven adverse effects on human health.  Mercury was used as an electrode material for producing chlorine (used in PVC manufacture) from salt water but that process has been largely replaced by newer technology.  Neither workers nor the public is exposed to dangerous levels of mercury related to PVC.
Resource: British Plastics Federation, "Construction - The PVC Option"

Does PVC production expose plant workers or the general public (plant neighbors, PVC end users) to dangerous levels of dioxin?

No.  "Dioxin" consists of 31 different chlorinated organic chemicals.  These chemicals do have some adverse human health effects even at low levels.  However, the US PVC manufacturing industry produces very little dioxin (<30 g/yr.)  Likewise, studies have shown that incinerating PVC produces no more dioxin than is produced by incinerating paper, wood or any other type of waste.
Resource: H. G. Rigo, A. J. Chandler, W. S. Lanier, "The Relationship between Chlorine in Waste Streams and Dioxin Emissions From Waste Combustor Stacks: an ASME Research Report (Crtd Series Vol. 36)", American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1995

Does PVC production expose plant workers or the general public (plant neighbors, PVC end users) to dangerous levels of chlorine?

No.  Elemental chlorine is a gas which is a severe lung irritant and exposure to which is deadly.  However, chlorine is not released to the air in VCM manufacturing process so there is no worker exposure.  Likewise elemental chlorine is not contained in PVC and is not produced when PVC is burned.

Does PVC production expose plant workers or the general public (plant neighbors, PVC end users) to dangerous levels of hydrochloric acid?

No.  Hydrochloric acid, HCl, is a strong mineral acid and is quite toxic.  Although HCl is produced when PVC is burned, it is produced in concentrations much lower than those of carbon monoxide.  Combustion gases from burning PVC are no more toxic than those from burning wood, paper or non-chlorinated plastics.
Resource: M. M. Hirschler, J. Fire Sciences, 5, 289-307, 1987

 

 

 

 

Plasticizers - Are humans exposed to toxic levels of chemicals associated with production use or disposal of PVC plasticizers?

 

  • Phthalate esters? No. Exposure levels are quite low. No adverse human health effects at all when phthalate sidechains ≥ C9. All phthalate plasticizers have long histories of safe use.

(18) See, for example, American Chemistry Council website, http://www.phthalates.org/yourhealth/index.asp

  • Aliphatic dibasic acid esters? No.
  • Trimellitates? No.
  • Polymeric plasticizers? No.
  • Specialty plasticizers (epoxidized oils and derivatives, citrates, cyclohexane dioic acid esters, benzoate esters)? No.
  • Secondary plasticizers. Rarely. Some polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are human carcinogens. Not widely used in PVC.

 

Heat stabilizers - Are humans exposed to toxic levels of chemicals associated with production use or disposal of PVC?

(19) See, for example, British Plastics Federation, op. cit..

 

  • Lead? No, not typically. Use in PVC is being phased out to eliminate any possible health effects. Non toxic stabilizers are being used instead.
  • Cadmium? No. No, not typically. Use in PVC is being phased out to eliminate any possible health effects
  • Barium? No. No, not typically. Use in PVC is being phased out to eliminate any possible health effects
  • Tin? No.

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