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American Public Health Association urged a reduction in use of PVC in hospitals and schools

November 08/2011

(Plastics Today) -- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) has been a major target of the environmental activist group Greenpeace for at least 20 years, dating to activism by chemist Michael Braungart. The focal point of Greenpeace was dioxins. The Vinyl Institute was formed in 1982 because of health-related attacks on PVC pipe by the steel industry. Since then PVC has been under attack for questions surrounding vinyl chloride monomer and phthalate plasticizers.

Last week new problems emerged. The American Public Health Association (APHA) urged a reduction in use of PVC in hospitals and schools. Also last week, an advocacy group called Clean and Healthy New York released a report questioning the safety of chemicals such as PVC used in 72 mattress models on sale in the United States.

For Allen Blakey, vice president of industry and government affairs at the The Vinyl Institute (Arlington, VA), it was a bad week. "I had sensed that direct attacks on vinyl had tapered off in the past couple years until last week," Blakey said in an interview with  yesterday.  "Why? PVC continues to prove its cost-effectiveness in myriad applications, including many high-value applications (material of choice for blood bags, medical tubing, tamper-resistant packaging, electrical wire insulation, pipe delivering drinking water, etc.)," Blakey said in a follow-up email.  

Blakey says that officials at APHA never called The Vinyl Institute to check their facts and get perspective. As a result, there were some statements in the APHA resolution that were outright wrong. Lead and cadmium, for example, are no longer used as stabilizers in PVC. He also faults the APHA for making no mention of what he describes as a positive review of phthalate plasticizers by industry groups where they didn't find actual problems despite  more than 60 years of use.

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