BELLONA COMMENT ON PVC
To Danmarks Sosialdemokratiske Parti
Environmental problems from other plastics are very little investigated, because of focus on PVC. Danish Technology Institute has commisioned from the Environmental Agency in Denmark a series of scanning litterature studies of other plastics. These studies indicate a lot of problems linked to other plastics generally and illustrates the need for deeper comparative studies.
We will point at the need for studiing additives used in alternative plastics to PVC, like brominated fire retardants used in so called halogen free cable (which could emit brominated dioxins) and uranium, which is used as catalyst in ABS-plastic.
A general problem for all plastics is addition of heavy metals in form of pigments. European industry still uses environmental suspect pigments containing cadmium, chromium, copper and lead.
These heavy metals create environmental problems by disposure, both by use as stabiliser or pigment in the plastic.
Concerning outphasing of the polymeric material PVC we agree that this should be done for short lived products (< 1 year), because this will have a positive effect on the reduction of HCl in the waste disposal furnaces.
A wider outphasing must be seen in relation to the chlorine/alcali balance, otherwise there will be a risk for increased global environmental problems linked to chlorinated solvents and pesticides. 2/3 of chlorine produces in Sweden is used in PVC. This is a stable and environmental safe way of treating chlorine, compared to the alternatives (CFC, chlorinated solvents&pesticides).
Chlorine has to be handled because the consumption of alcali increases and will increase due to activities in the Al- and paperindustry. By technological improvements as removal of toxic ingredients and establishment of recycling, PVC can with advantage be used in longlasting products (pipes etc.). We refer to our fact sheet, which shows in more detail our views.
There are used a lot more environmental- and health suspicious heavy metals in plastics, than what is said in the proposal. This is the case, both for additives for PVC and other plastics. We will mention pigments used in all thermoplastics, as:
Yellow (Barium, Titanium, Antimony, Nickel, Chromium, Zinc, Cadmium, Lead)
Green (Chromium, Cobalt, Titanium, Nickel, Zinc)
Blue (Cobalt, Chromium and others)
Brown (Chromium and others)
Red (Cadmium, Selenium, Lead, Chromium, Molybdenum and others)
In addition, heavy metals are used in plastics for other purposes. It will be too much to cover that item in this letter. As an example we will mention that Swedish Telia for environmental reasons wish to change their PVC cards with ABS. ABS can contain uranium, depending on the producer. Bellona anticipate that this was not known to Telia when substitution was launched. This illustrates the need for as much knowledge for the alternatives as we have for PVC today.
However, an offensive and realistic environmental policy for both Denmark and the EU will be a general ban on all suspicious heavy metals in all plastics, otherwise it will not have a positive environmental effect.
Bisphenol A is the main component in this chapter, which is the most potent oestrogen imitator. This substance was already in 1936 discovered as endocrinic disturbing.
Bisphenol A is as separate additive in a lot of plastics, which have direct contact with food and humans, as in internal lacquering of Al-cans and in fillings for dental work. Bisphenol A should primarily phased out [in food applications], secondarily in products with human contact. In that case it are other plastics than PVC, which primarily should be phased out, or they have to be improved.
Concerning the phtalates DEHP, DINP, BBP and DBP, we wonder why it is just 4 of 20 commercial used phtalates, which should be phased out. To our knowledge from studies on different effects, it are not these 4 phtalates, which are worst concerning environment/health.
The uncertainity about the effects are great and Bellona thinks it's needed to initiate a better aimed research on this chemical group. This must be independent of potential law regulations against PVC, as long as phtalates are used for other purposes and because the level in the environment is occasionally high.
The Environment Agency's comparison document between PET and PVC reveals that there are also other plastic related sources for human exposure of phtalates.
PET, which is used all over Europe as mineral water bottles, is based on phtalates. Analyses taken on water and mineral water stored on PET show high values of phtalates in the drinking water. This bottle content can be health related suspicious and should therefore be investigated more closely. Already in 1993 the Environment Agency got this information.
The dimension and potential health risk for human exposure of phtalates from beverages in PET have not been satisfactory investigated. It has been focused on effects from phtalates in flooring and other products, which have never been in contact with foodstuff.
The dioxin emissions from the burning of household waste and hospital waste, is first of all due to the technical standard of the burning ovens and not the chlorine content. The dioxin problems Denmark has with the waste handling equipment, can be fully solved by upgrading the burning technology.
Otherwise we will point at the fact that in the Nordic area, the dioxins come primarly from the metal melting industry. In Norway the main source is coming from the production of Mg, Fe and Ni, when in Sweden it comes from recycling of steel and Al-scrap.
With kind regards
Environmental foundation BELLONA
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Created: June 2, 1996.
Last update: May 2, 1998.
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