Plastic with harmful effects to the environment and human health.
Few materials exist with an application so internationally extensive like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that have motivated so many studies, analyses, contra-analyses and controversy with the public and influential NGOs, due to its presumed danger for human health and the environment.
It is the third most used polymer in the world for the production of plastics, due to its cheap production cost and the fact that it can be made both stiff and flexible to create material containers for construction or compounds for cars.
Two processes are used to produce PVC:
Polymerization in vinyl chloride suspension.
Polymerization in emulsion.
In both cases, production takes place mainly in closed industrial processes to avoid contamination to the environment.
Nevertheless, there isn’t a global agreement on the processing, applications and management of residues of a material that can be converted easily into a contaminating and cancerous substance.
The European Commission recognizes that the majority of the lead and cadmium compounds, including those utilized in PVC, are toxic, harmful, dangerous to the environment and present a risk of accumulated effects. The two metals are persistent and some of their compounds accumulate in certain organisms.
The potential risk derived from the lead and cadmium stabilizers in PVC take place:
When the lead and cadmium stabilizers in PVC remain contained in the use phase.
During the phases of production and processing of residues, when the workers should be protected.
The main sectors that use PVC as a primary material in Europe are:
Construction (where 57% of the PVC is consumed)
Domestic applications (18%)
In 1999, the total annual amount of PVC residues in the EU was 4.1 million tons, of which 3.6 million tons is post-consumer waste and 0.5 million tons is waste created during the production of the different applications of PVC.
If a policy for the treatment of PVC residues isn’t created in the next few years, the environmental costs could multiply. Human health would also suffer.
To protect the health of children from unnecessary risks, in January 2006 the European Union prohibited the use of six types of additives used to easily mold PVC.
Despite the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) rejection of a similar prohibition in the United States, the majority of American businesses have voluntarily eliminated these substances from their toys.
Various studies have concluded that the chemical substance DEHP, Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, can affect the health of children and their ability to fight allergies. According to the U.S. Department of Health, “DEHP is not toxic in the low levels generally found in the environment.”
In animals, high levels of DEHP damaged the liver and the kidney and affected their capacity to reproduce. DEHP has been found in at least 733 of the 1,613 places on the List of National Priorities identified by the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States (EPA).”
Neither the European Union nor any other region in the world has reduced their dependence on PVC as a cheap material, for industry and consumers, for all types of applications.
More information on the plastic PVC and the implications of its use, in Wikipedia.