WASHINGTON - Sweden has asked its plastics industry to stop producing PVC because of its unknown effects on the endocrine systems of humans and animals. Anna Lindh, Sweden's environment and natural resources minister, made the call for a voluntary ban of PVC in Washington in advance of her April 30 keynote speech before the World Environ-ment Center's annual Interna-tional Environment Forum.
Swedes use very little PVC in food packaging, in the aftermath of an earlier government policy calling for a reduction in PVC production.
Although the major PVC use is now in building materials, recent questions about the alleged persistence of chemicals in the environment and their effects on the endocrine systems have prompted the latest voluntary ban, Lindh said.
Lindh - who has been a Swedish Parliament member since 1982 and in the environment post for 18 months - also called for establishment of a Swedish chemicals commission.
``Its task will be to review the recent developments in chemical controls and compare them with risk assessments,'' she said.
However, later in her remarks, Lindt said, ``We have to target chemical products - and by implication the chemical industry. The risks of uncontrolled dispersal of persistent organic compounds have to be reduced to zero.''
Reducing compound emissions risks to zero contradicts the use of risk assessment guidelines to determine relative risk of chemical exposure.
Linda called for a ban in an interview with the ``Daily Report for Executives,'' published by the Bureau of National Affairs Inc. Her call for a new council was made in remarks to a closed session of the New York-based World Environ-ment Forum, described as a roundtable of experts. A transcript of her remarks was ob-tained from the Swedish Embassy in Washington.
William F. Carroll Jr., spokes-man for the Chlorine Chemistry Council of the Washington-based Chemical Manufacturers Assoc-iation, found the call for a voluntary ban in conflict with other Swedish government actions regarding the environment.
Only one company produces PVC in Sweden. Lindt's comments did not outline any sanction that might be assessed against the company for continuing to produce PVC.
``The best I can tell, this is her doing, and she is asking for voluntary industry action,'' Carroll said. ``I'm a little surprised; frankly, I thought we were waiting for a report from the [Swedish] chemicals inspectorate in June. I'm not sure what the Swedish government is doing.''
Carroll said the inspectorate has been addressing questions about additives to PVC - ``the central question in Sweden,'' he said - for 18 months. The report is ``the next milestone we were waiting for.''
Robert Burnett, executive director of the Vinyl Institute in Morristown, N.J., said comments attributed to Lindh were not consistent with either an understanding of the chemistry of PVC or the current policy of the Swedish government.
Lindh was quoted in the ``Daily Report for Executives'' as saying persistent chemical additives in PVC - especially chlorine - should be eliminated. Burnett pointed out that chlorine is not an additive to PVC.
Carroll added that dioxin, a chemical found in proximity to incinerated PVC, is neither persistent nor a specific endocrine disruptor in the environment.
As reason for her concerns, Lindh cited Rachel Carson's 1961 book, Silent Spring, in her remarks.
``The story started by Rachel Carson is still evolving,'' she said. ``We do not know the epilogue of the book on the chemical industry. It should be written in the next decade.''