(Aug. 14, 2006) — PVC threatens our health and the environment, the science shows. American innovation has created safer, more cost-effective alternatives for just about every PVC product on the market. Barry Cowles (“How does Schade totally avoid vinyl?” July 17, Page 6), John P. Dellevigne (“Unfounded charges against PVC continue,” June 5, Page 6) and Kenneth Abate (“Lack of knowledge colors PVC criticism,” June 5, Page 6) somehow overlook these points.
During the entire life cycle of PVC, toxic substances are inevitably released on mostly unwilling workers and communities. It's true that workers today are exposed to less toxic vinyl chloride than workers 40 years ago. But the science, too, is better than 40 years ago. Today's science tells us there is no “safe” amount of exposure to vinyl chloride that doesn't heighten the risk of cancer.
Among Italian PVC workers, for example, a 2003 study found more-than-expected deaths from all causes, from all tumors, as well as from lung cancer, lymphomas, leukemias and liver cirrhosis. Among PVC workers in Louisville, Ky., a 2003 study uncovered evidence that vinyl chloride exposure was a prime suspect in cases of angiosarcoma. This study also uncovered a cluster of brain cancers generally associated with workers from PVC facilities, even if vinyl chloride exposure per se could not be implicated.
In fact, scientific studies now implicate vinyl chloride exposure in a range of ailments including not only cancer, but also damage to the lungs, blood, nervous system, immune system, cardiovascular system, skin, bones and reproductive system.
Safer, more cost-effective alternatives exist for just about every PVC product, although much more could be done to embrace them. Companies today are finding many ways to phase out products and packaging containing PVC in favor of better, more innovative alternatives.
Rising numbers of plastic products, for example, can be safely formed from polymers made out of natural starches, such as from corn or potatoes. These renewable, plant-based alternatives may not immediately replace fossil-fuel dependent plastic, but with some American ingenuity, that day may not be long off.
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy