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Center for Health, Environment & Justice BE SAFE Campaign
DECEMBER 7, 2004
10:00 AM
CONTACT: Center for Health, Environment & Justice BE SAFE Campaign 
Valerie Holford, 202-365-5336 or 301-926-1298
Lois Gibbs, CHEJ, 703-627-9483 (Cell)
U.S. Facing Waste Crisis From Disposal of 70 Bllion Pounds of PVC in Next Decade
Pervasive PVC Plastic Used in Baby Shampoo Bottles, Blister Packs and Toys Poses Serious Environmental and Health Threats According to New Study Campaign Launched Urging Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft to Switch to Available Safe Materials and Join Many Companies Phasing out PVC

WASHINGTON -- December 7 -- The United States is facing a looming waste crisis with a conservative estimate of 70 billion pounds of PVC plastic (polyvinyl chloride) slated for disposal in the next decade. Disposal rates are expected to sharply increase as an estimated 125 billion pounds of PVC installed in the last 40 years in construction and other long lasting uses will need to be disposed of as it reaches the end of its useful life. This pervasive “poison plastic” is used in thousands of products including pipes, building materials (such as vinyl siding), consumer products (such as toys or tablecloths) and disposable packaging, and cannot be disposed of safely. From 1966 to 2002, an estimated 250 billion pounds of PVC was used in the U.S., with a doubling of use in the past 15 years alone. A new report, PVC: Bad News Come in Threes, documents the health and environmental hazards during manufacturing, product use and disposal, and provides detailed state and national estimates on PVC waste incinerated and landfilled.

Several communities near incinerators are concerned about increased cancer rates linked to dioxin emissions—burning PVC plastic forms dioxins, a highly toxic group of chemicals linked to cancer Many PVC products are made with toxic additives including phthalates and organotins that can be released during use, and leach into groundwater when landfilled. Studies have shown plasticizers such as phthalates have migrated out of PVC containers used to store food, IV bags used to hold blood, toys and numerous other soft vinyl products, exposing people to toxic additives. And, consumers that recycle PVC bottles are unaware that it can contaminate the entire recycling batch.

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice’s (CHEJ) BE SAFE network kicked off a campaign to convince Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft to switch to available, safe non-PVC products and packaging as Bristol Meyers, Samsung and Nike have already done. Many firefighters who are concerned about PVC-producing toxic fumes in burning buildings will benefit from Firestone’s announcement in October to phase out 8,000 tons of PVC used annually in their roofing. The two corporate targets are large users of PVC packaging such as Microsoft’s blister packaging on software products, and Johnson and Johnson’s Kids Detangling Shampoo bottles.

“Some major medical device manufacturers are switching from using PVC to avoid direct patient exposure to phthalates, as well as the public and environmental health impacts of PVC throughout its life cycle,” said Ted Schettler MD, MPH of the Science and Environmental Health Network. “Companies realize that protecting the public health and the environment is the right thing to do and makes good business sense.”

The campaign is asking consumers to avoid PVC products—which are often marked with a “3” or a “v” for vinyl—and send back any PVC items to the manufacturer or bring it to a household hazardous waste collection.

“We know enough about the dangers of PVC to take precautionary action and phase it out,” said Lois Gibbs who founded CHEJ and is well known as the housewife turned activist around Love Canal’s toxic contamination in her hometown of Niagara Falls, NY. “We need to tell corporations to protect our health and environment by switching to non-PVC materials. Consumers need to know that bad news comes in three’s—avoid buying PVC products which are marked with a “3” or “v” in the recycle symbol.”

PVC is estimated to contribute from 38 to 67% of the total chlorine found in solid waste, from 90 to 98% of phthalates, from 1 to 28% of the lead, and 10% of the cadmium (Pg. 14 Report). Cadmium, lead, organotins and phthalates are commonly released from PVC waste in landfills (Pg. 37 Report).

Burning PVC plastic, which contains 57% chlorine when pure, forms dioxins, a highly toxic group of chemicals linked to cancer. PVC is the major contributor of chlorine to four combustion sources—municipal solid waste incinerators, backyard burn barrels, medical waste incinerators and secondary copper smelters—that account for a significant portion of dioxin air emissions; these four sources accounted for more than 80% of dioxin emissions to air based on a USEPA survey (Pg. 2 Report).

Government tests found residents of Mossville, Louisiana—the location of four vinyl production facilities—had dioxin levels in their blood at three times the average rate and were breathing air contaminated with vinyl chloride, a potent carcinogen, more than 120 times higher than the ambient air standard (Pg. 19 Report).

Organizations released the report in 20 states, including CA, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, IL, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, NC, NY, OH, OR, PA, VA, WA and WV. It is co-authored by CHEJ and the Environmental Health Strategy Center.


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