Why should parents be concerned about chemical additives in vinyl plastic products in the home?
Greenpeace found different chemical additives in commonplace home furnishings and childcare products that are made from vinyl. These hazardous additives leach out of the vinyl while it is in use. How much leaches out and how quickly varies greatly and is dependent on heat (sunlight), age of the product, and use (such as a child chewing on vinyl). These chemical additives have been linked to health concerns and in some cases, the testing information is woefully inadequate to assess the chemical's safety.
What are the dangers associated with the chemical additives found in vinyl?
The phthalates found in the products tested have been shown to cause liver cancer and kidney damage in animals. They also impair the reproductive system in rodents, and concerns have been raised that similar effects may arise in male infants in humans. The organotins found in the products tested have caused nervous and respiratory problems in humans in addition to reproductive and developmental impairment in animals. Bisphenol A, also found in a handful of products, can mimic human hormones.
The chemical industry says that these chemicals have not been shown to be harmful to people. Does this mean they are safe?
Thousands of chemicals are in commerce today that have not been adequately tested, especially for their effects on children. Of those that have been tested, researchers usually look first for cancerous effects but often never test for non-cancerous health effects.
The chemical industry also claims that levels of additives in vinyl products are not harmful. Is this true?
No one knows what level of additives in vinyl is safe. And no one knows how the chemicals we are all exposed to everyday effect our health. In the meantime, caution should be taken to not expose developing children needlessly to toxic chemicals when safer materials, including other plastics, are readily available.
Are children more vulnerable to exposure to chemicals? Are some children at a higher risk?
Because children are still developing into adolescence, they are more vulnerable to chemical exposure. Their reproductive systems, livers and other vital organs and not fully developed. Children whose immune systems are compromised and premature babies are more at risk than other children from chemical contamination.
What is the Consumer Product Safety Commission doing to protect my family from vinyl?
Compared to action in the European Union and by individual companies, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has done little to protect US consumers from vinyl products. They have voluntary agreements with toy manufacturers to not use two phthalates in teethers and rattles. And they issued a warning about lead in PVC mini-blinds, only after children were injured from exposure to lead in the window treatments. The latest CPSC action on this issue is a report by an expert panel, first announced in December 1998, that was charged with reviewing the hazards posed by one PVC additive (the phthalate DINP) and its use only in products designed for children under three.
How can you tell when something is vinyl?
It is difficult to identify vinyl because there are no labeling requirements on most products. Some products - such as bottles - are marked on the bottom with the number "3" or the letter "V" surrounded by the recycling symbol. Some common marketing phrases that distinguish vinyl "non-toxic vinyl," "easy to clean, non-toxic vinyl," and "PVC." And soft PVC is often very flexible and has a distinct odor. Call the manufacturer if you've not sure if its vinyl.
Are there alternative materials on the market?
There are several other non-vinyl materials that products can be made from including wood, cotton or other fabrics and alternative plastics that do not require the hazardous additives used in vinyl. While no one can guarantee that any plastic is safe, we do know that other plastics do not require the large amount of additives that PVC requires, and that these plastics do not have the same tendency to leach as soft PVC. Some manufacturers have begun to label their products "PVC-Free."<br />