I had a light bulb moment today with PVC plastic – time to get my head out of the sand with this plastic known as ‘the poison plastic’ and realize it’s in more places than I care to realize in my home. It is crazy why BPA gets all the media attention when Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC or vinyl) is the worst known plastic for our health releasing chemicals that cause cancer and other known health problems. Many household products are still made from this plastic: plastic food wrap, fake Christmas trees, lunch kits, flooring, clothing, etc. It’s not just shower curtains that need to be reviewed and replaced – we are talking about everyday household items! In many opinions, this plastic is devastating to human health (a known carcinogen) and proven to cause cancer and I want it as far away from my children as possible. Would you continue to use a product that has a warning across the packaging “using this product may cause cancer” and keep it in close contact with your family members? Of course not, but it’s finding out where it’s lurking in your home.
It’s overwhelming to wrap your mind around all the places that may contain PVC. I downloaded the PVC-free guide called Pass Up The Poison Plastic produced by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice and it was very helpful and something all parents should read. After going through this document, I can guarantee you’ll discover items in your life that you didn’t know contained PVC.
Still not convinced that you need to rid your life of PVC plastic? It’s recently been written that PVC vinyl flooring might be linked with autism in children. That is pretty powerful – here is the article from Eco Child’s Play. Still not convinced? To quote the Center For Health, Environment, Justice:
PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic, commonly referred to as vinyl, is one of the most hazardous consumer products ever created. PVC is dangerous to human health and the environment throughout its entire life cycle, at the factory, in our homes, and in the trash. Our bodies are contaminated with poisonous chemicals released during the PVC lifecycle, such as mercury, dioxins, and phthalates, which may pose irreversible life-long health threats. When produced or burned, PVC plastic releases dioxins, a group of the most potent synthetic chemicals ever tested, which can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems.
How did the realization just come about for me personally? I discovered the cling wrap I use is made from PVC and I’ve been using it to wrap the kid’s food for lunches. Should it be touching my kid’s food? No. Why did I not already know this when I’m entrenched with green products and issues on a daily basis? I can’t answer that either. You just don’t see as much reported about PVC – more about the harm caused by phthalates and BPA. I learned this week that I need to become more diligent about sourcing healthy PVC-free alternatives in my home. Action items I took away from researching the article is to find out what kind of flooring is at my kid’s schools, find out if products (like my Christmas tree) continue to leech air-borne phthalates every time they are used even when they are several years old, research more food storage ideas that are PVC free, and purchase a PVC-free (non-vinyl) water hose for this summer because my kids always drink from it.
When it comes to children’s products and toys, it’s also not clear-cut which are made from PVC because most don’t have the PVC resin code stamped clearly on the product. The recycling code for PVC plastic is number 3 (with chasing arrows around it). I use the term ‘recycling code’ loosely though because you cannot recycle PVC plastic, which has a colossal impact to the environment because of it’s wide use. Actually, one PVC plastic bottle can contaminate a recycling load of 100,000 PET bottles because of the many different toxic additives used to soften PVC (phthalates, plastizers, etc.), so if you think a product is made from this plastic, you might be doing more harm by tossing it into the recycling bin. If this is still confusing, try watching the ‘Sam Suds and the case of PVC’ video on the Campaign for Safe, Healthy Consumer Product’s site. It’s even okay for kids to watch because it’s a cartoon and an entertaining and basic introduction to learning about PVC. Another great video that is timely with Earth Day quickly approaching is The Story About Stuff. It’s only 20 minutes and Annie Leonard exposes the connections between environmental and social issues and will forever change the way you view ‘the stuff’ in your life.