Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

Beyond Mercury: Why the Bush Administration plan means more arsenic, lead, dioxin, and other toxic air pollution

Press Release

December 7, 2004


Vivian Stockman, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, 304-522-0246Lois Gibbs, Center for Health, Environment & Justice, 703-627-9483 (cell).


Over 10,000 Tons of PVC Land-filled in West Virginia

National Report on PVC, The Poison Plastic, Describes

Looming Waste Crisis and Pervasive Hazards


HUNTINGTON, W.VA. A national report released today documents the health and environmental hazards posed by PVC during manufacturing, product use and disposal. In West Virginia, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition released the report:  PVC, Bad News Come in Threes: The Poison Plastic, Health Hazards, and the Looming Waste Crisis


The report concludes that Americans throw away billions of pounds of PVC. However, there really is no 'away' since PVC waste poses perpetual hazards.  Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is widely used in plastic pipes, building materials (such as vinyl siding), consumer products (such as toys or tablecloths) and disposable packaging.


If PVC is incinerated or illegally burned in backyard trash barrels, that creates cancer-causing dioxin, said Vivian Stockman, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) project coordinator. If it is buried in landfills, it contaminates groundwater. If you try to recycle it, it contaminates the entire recycling process. Even when you are done with it, its not done with you. 


The report estimates that about 10,000 tons of PVC waste is land-filled in West Virginia.


Thanks to state laws the environmental community helped pass in the 1990s, we arent on the list of states that land-fill the most PVC, Stockman said. But we are still at risk. PVC is everywhere. Its a poison plastic. Luckily, there are safer alternatives.


The report estimates that 70 billion pounds of PVC plastic are slated for disposal in the next decade. And, the problem is going to get worse. Disposal rates will sharply increase as an estimated 125 billion pounds of PVC, installed in construction over the last two decades, reaches the end of its useful life.  


A growing number of corporations are phasing out PVC, such as Nike and Firestone. To prevent harm from PVC, OVEC joined with the Center for Health, Environment & Justice to kick off a campaign to convince Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft to phase out PVC use.  These corporate targets are large users of PVC packaging such as Microsofts blister packs on computer software products and Johnson and Johnsons 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.


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.  PVC is the major contributor of chlorine to four combustion sourcesmunicipal solid waste incinerators, backyard burn barrels, medical waste incinerators and secondary copper smeltersthat 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, Louisianathe location of four vinyl production facilitieshad 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). 


OVEC joined in releasing the report with dozens of groups nationwide. The report was authored by the Center for Environment, Health and Justices BE SAFE precautionary campaign and the Environmental Health Strategy Center.


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 For a copy of the report and more information, visit www.besafenet.com/PVC04/pvcinfo.htm.


State PVC Disposal Estimates derived from The State of Garbage in America: The 14th  Annual Nationwide Survey of  Solid Waste in the U.S. (Kaufman, et al., 2004); and Municipal Solid Waste the U.S., (US EPA 2003). Methodology described in more detail on Pg. 72 of report.

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