Greenpeace action at Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair '99, against use of PVC in toys.
PVC and chlorine |
History of PVC |
PVC toxic hotspots
PVC and chlorine
Chlorine is found in nature predominantly in the form of salt, a
stable compound that is essential to many natural processes. By
using massive amounts of electricity, the chemical industry
destroys the salt compound's stability. This creates an extremely
reactive form of chlorine that is not widely found in nature. The
use of this elemental chlorine (Cl2) results in products and
wastes, many of which are toxic to wildlife, humans or the
Chlorine is highly energy intensive to make. Therefore chlor
alkali plants are often located near cheap sources of energy. For
instance the 20 chlorine plants in Germany need as much electricity
as 40 towns (each with 100,000 inhabitants). In Germany the
chlorine industry pays only five Pfennigs for each kilowatt hour
used. This price is subsidised by the taxpayer who pays 50 Pfennigs
per kilowatt hour.
"The dynamic growth of chlorine chemistry during the 1950s and
1960s represents a decisive mistake in this century of industrial
development. This mistake would not have occurred had our present
research on the environmental damage and health risks due to
chlorine chemistry been available then."
German Council of Experts for Environmental Issues, 1990
History of PVC
PVC is an organochlorine, which was first patented in 1913 by Fritz
Klatte. However, its development was hindered by pure PVC's thermal
instability and its low workability.
During the 1930s, German experiments with various stabilisers
and softeners lead to the first useable forms of PVC. By the early
1950's, PVC was second only to polythene, as the most important
synthetic product in Germany.
PVC development was part of the huge expansion of the chlorine
industry after the Second World War. PVC,
Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and Chlorofluorocarbons
(CFC's) are all products of this post war boom in the chlorine
industry. Currently there are over 11,000 organochlorines now in
Organochlorines are useful to industry because they tend to be
very stable and they resist natural breakdown processes. However,
this also means that they may persist in the environment for
decades, moving up the food chain and contaminating wildlife and
Many chlorinated products and byproducts are considered to be
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The best known POPs are the
pesticide DDT and dioxins, which are byproducts of many processes
PVC toxic hotspots
Greenpeace has produced a map of
global toxics hotspots
. Below is a summary of the hotspots
related to PVC.
BRAZIL: Solvay Dioxin Hotspot, Santo Andre, Sao Paulo,
NETHERLANDS: Rotterdam Harbour Dioxin hotspot, 'Chemiehaven'
TURKEY: Petkim Petrochemical co. Izmit, Turkey.
UK: Holford Brine Caverns, Holford, near Northwich, Cheshire;
UK: Weston Marsh Lagoons and Weston Canal, Adjacent to ICI /EVC
Runcorn site, Waste dump.
US: Calcasieu Estuary, Lake Charles, Louisiana, Vinyl and
chlorinated solvents manufacturing facilities; historical dumping
AUSTRIA: Dioxin contaminated landfill, Landfill "Rautenweg",
AUSTRALIA: Port Kembla, Steel Smelter. Emissions/discharge of
dioxins and furans.
AUSTRALIA: Totalcare Incinerator, Mitchell, Canberra, Australian
AUSTRALIA: BHP Whyalla Steelworks Pellet Plant, Whyalla, South
Australia. Emission/discharge, dioxins and furans.
CANADA: PVC Plastic (vinyl) fires dioxin hotspots, Ontario and
Québec, Industrial accident.
DENMARK: Staalvalsevaerket Frederiksvaerk. (Steelsmelter of
Frederiksvaerk), Sealand, Dioxin emissions to air and dioxin
contamination of filter ash.
JAPAN: Two gigantic landfills named Yatozawa and Futatsuduka in
Hinode town, in the west of Tokyo, Waste dump.
JAPAN: Ryugasaki-City and Shin-tone town, Shirotori MSW
incinerator in Shin-tone town, Ibaraki Prefecture. Shirotori MSW
Batch type incinerator, dioxins and PAHs.
JAPAN: Sakai Nr. 519-1, Chuo-Cho, Kume-Gun, Okayama Prefecture,
Japan. Open burning site of industrial waste.
JAPAN: Toyono District Clean Centre in Nose-Town,
Toyono-district in Osaka Prefecture, Dioxin emission/discharge form
MSW incineration stack gas and ash-washing water.
UK: SELCHP Incinerator. Deptford, London Borough of Lewisham.
UK: British Steel integrated iron and steel works. Llanwern,
South Wales. Emission/discharge source of dioxin. Sinter plant and
UK: British Steel integrated iron and steel works. Port Talbot,
South Wales. Emission/discharge source of dioxin. Source: Sinter
plant and furnace.
UK: British Steel integrated iron and steel works, Scunthorpe,
North Lincolnshire. Emission/discharge source of dioxin.