Smart Resources for Understanding the Hazards of PVC

James Vallette | December 2018 | Newsletter

As the largest consumer of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the building and construction industry shares a large responsibility for the global pollution unleashed by its production. In HBN’s first research report, Environmental Impacts of Polyvinyl Chloride Building Materials (2002), Dr. Joe Thornton observed, “The hazards posed by dioxins, phthalates, metals, vinyl chloride, and ethylene dichloride are largely unique to PVC, which is the only major building material and the only major plastic that contains chlorine or requires plasticizers or stabilizers.” Although many architecture and design firms, health care systems, product certifiers, and building owners have red listed PVC since Dr. Thornton’s report, global production of PVC continues to rise. This industry’s impacts are growing.

We can do better, but first we must Know Better.

Phase 1 of our Chlorine & Building Materials Project updates Dr. Thornton’s analysis of the impacts of PVC production, from ozone layer depletion to the global distribution of bio-accumulative toxicants, from ocean pollution to fenceline community disasters. In a recent webinar hosted by the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE), I described our findings and their relationships to building products.

The webinar, Plastic Production’s Threats to Health: Global Trends, Chemical Footprints of Common Plastics, and the PVC Industry’s Wake of Pollution, also features presentations by Araceli Fernandez Pales of the International Energy Agency, and Mark Rossi of Clean Production Action. It’s the first webinar in CHE’s four-part series, The Effects of Plastics on Health, which presents the latest research on the key ways plastic affects public health.

While it took place in October, the webinar is available for free on the CHE website (my part starts at the 40:35 mark), along with the related slides and speakers’ resource lists. This valuable information can help you broaden your understanding of the health hazards associated with PVC and the industry that manufactures it, and offers suggestions for incorporating healthier material choices in your own work.