PVC is Shiny…But Not So Pretty or Happy

Looking to prevent your precious consumer dollars spent supporting PVC in clothing?  It’s tricky and if you’ve never thought of it before…it takes a some investigation & sorting to find where it lurks.  Think of shiny, sparkly decals that are stuck to your kid’s clothes or stinky items like rain gear and you’ve got a great place to start. All big box stores are famous for this so if you shop at the mall…save your breath and patience and don’t ask a salesperson if the shirt, shoe, PJs, etc. contains PVC.  They won’t know and the experience will be similar to plucking out your arm hairs. Slowly. Yes, I’ve run my usual list of questions at every retail shop in my local mall including stores like Gap, Old Navy, department stores, Please Mom, H&M, etc. and even District Managers go cross-eyed talking to me. Do I still shop there?  Very occasionally and less and less frequently as the options in eco-friendlier clothing open to consumers. What is the problem with glitter or a big decal on a kid’s shirt? You’ve got the cheapest and most toxic form of plastic sitting right under their noses. You’re also supporting over-seas production of clothing that is using toxic materials for the poor people making the clothes. You’ve got a piece of clothing that will never disappear from the earth…no matter how many times you hand it down because once it ends up in the landfill, PVC will continue to live on. And you’ve got a substance that you’ve brought into your home that will end up in the dryer (think heat on toxic plastic) and you’ve just spend your hard earned $$s on another toxic item in your home.

Why is PVC terrible for human health and the environment? I know I’ve explained PVC before, but if you are new to Mommy Footprint, it’s an important material to understand if you are trying to ‘green’ your life and make healthier lifestyle choices. Described as poison plastic from Greenpeace, this form of plastic is the most toxic of the classified plastics (coded 1 – 7) and it’s ‘recycling’ number is 3.  Please note that while called recycling or resin number (the number defining which type of plastic and item is made from with chasing arrows surrounding it) for PVC is a 3, it is NOT able to be recycled. PVC plastic is toxic from the moment it’s produced until you attempt to get rid of it (burning it or throwing it into the landfill). While it’s being produced, PVC releases harmful dioxins into the air and continues to off-gas throughout it’s life. When you first open a product that is made from PVC that is wrapped in packaging, you will notice an intense and disgusting smell – that is the scent of PVC. A terrible fact that supports the fact of what happens when PVC is burned is described on the Greenpeace website. Listen to this:

From July 9-12, 1997, at least 400 tonnes of PVC were consumed in a fire at Plastimet, Inc., Hamilton, Ontario. The facility was storing bales of “jet trimmings” from a manufacturer of automobile interiors. Analysis of soot and ash samples after the PVC fire at the plant revealed levels of dioxin 66 times higher than permitted even for industrial land. This one fire increased the annual dioxin emssions for the whole of Canada by 4 % in 1997.

What are the top places I’ve tried to eliminate PVC from the clothing I purchase?  Footwear (rubber boots in particular), umbrellas, t-shirts, and PJs. I have walked into stores and had an instant headache from the smell a few pairs of rubber boots can produce. It’s the number one product that is usually produced from PVC and it’s easy to tell because of the smell and price (PVC is a very cheap material and as a result the products produced from it are less money). The best new item for this winter season has been Bogs Footwear for my son and I.  Bogs uses natural rubber and neoprene in their boots and the breathability, comfort, and quality has been very impressive. I’m a huge fan of this company and will outfit my entire clan in their boots next winter.

Umbrellas are also impossible to find PVC-free in a mall or traditional retail store. I found two for my girls at Dandelion Kids and they do have an online store if you’re looking to purchase.  Another place I try to avoid PVC is sleep ware, but boy is that tough.  It’s very hard when trying to find cool boys’ sleep ware. Any sort of licensed PJs – you know, the kind 8 year old boys like – have a big shiny decal on the front. That and they’re made with polyester (I’ll save this rant for another day) but I’ve had luck at Lazy One a local store and I love the PJs for younger kids at Hatley (they also sell PVC- free umbrellas).

The last place to try and rid PVC in my clothing (and kid’s clothing) is simply making a decision to not purchase clothing that have any shiny or synthetic looking decals.  Once you fully understand what these ‘fun’ decals are made from…it’s actually quite easy to explain to children whey you’re not buying the licensed shirt.  We of course get loads of hand-me-downs that have these decals and embellishments,but I’m more talking about the power of consumer dollars. It seems a bit mad that we continue to spend our money on things that are toxic to our heath – doesn’t it?

Many smaller (usually online) stores that have better options with materials used to produce clothing are listed below.  I’d like to reward their efforts with my consumer dollars and a shoutout in this article.  There are so many more small stores that have made the decision to use quality materials in the production of their clothing – please feel free to post a comment to this post and let people know about your products.

Bogs Footwear – http://www.bogsfootwear.com/

Puddle Gear – http://www.puddlegear.com/products.asp

Hatley – http://www.hatleystore.com/

Barley & Birch: http://www.barleyandbirch.com/

Little Inkers: http://www.littleinkers.ca/collections.html


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3 Responses to PVC is Shiny…But Not So Pretty or Happy

  1. Laura January 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    I actually just bought some bogs boots for me off amazon. Glad to hear they are safe. Love mine so far!

  2. kristen conn February 1, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    Great post! Glad to know about the Bogs, they are wonderful boots. We have PVC-free clothing and pajamas at http://mightynest.com. And hope to add PVC-free rain gear from Hatley or Puddle Gear in the future.


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