PVC affects health and also the planet

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is one of the most used plastics worldwide. Its versatility and low cost make it ideal for various applications. However, it is a material that raises serious concerns for human health and the environment.

PVC is used in the manufacture of many products

To produce PVC they use toxic substances

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) published a report on the health impacts caused by PVC. It details that some PVC additives represent risks to people and the environment.

The European Commission requested this report and is now reviewing it to decide the next steps. The report emphasizes the need for regulatory action. It proposes to minimize risks of plasticizers, reduce the filtration of PVC microparticles and closely monitor flame retardants.

During the production of PVC, various toxic substances are released. These include dioxins, furans and heavy metals such as mercury and lead. These substances can contaminate the air, water and soil, affecting both factory workers and nearby communities.

The most worrying are dioxins, because they are highly toxic and can cause cancer, reproductive problems and immune system disorders.

Pure PVC is rigid and brittle, so additives are added to improve its properties. These additives include plasticizers such as phthalates, which give it flexibility. In addition, they add stabilizers such as lead and cadmium compounds, which increase its durability.

Phthalates can leach from PVC and come into contact with the human body, especially in products such as toys and household items. Exposure to phthalates is associated with hormonal problems, damage to childhood development and respiratory diseases.

Use and Exposure to PVC

Everyday use of PVC products can also be harmful. It is used in the manufacture of pipes, flooring, electrical cables, food packaging and toys. When these products are heated or burned, they release toxic gases such as hydrogen chloride, which can cause eye, skin, and respiratory irritation.

PVC is used to make some toys

In closed environments, such as homes and offices, the release of these gases can contribute to indoor air pollution.

Decomposition and disposal of PVC

This material is not biodegradable and its disposal represents a significant environmental challenge. When it is incinerated, it releases a mixture of toxic chemicals, including dioxins and furans.

These compounds can accumulate in the food chain, affecting both animals and humans. Additionally, landfills where PVC is disposed of can leach toxic substances into the soil and groundwater, also affecting the drinking water supply.

Replacement alternatives that are safer

Fortunately, there are safer alternatives to PVC. Materials such as polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) are less toxic and easier to recycle. Businesses and consumers can opt for these materials to reduce exposure to harmful substances associated with PVC.

Additionally, promoting policies that encourage the use of sustainable materials and recycling can help minimize the impact on health and the environment.

It is a ubiquitous material in modern life, but its use carries significant risks. Adopting safer alternatives and promoting sustainable practices can reduce these risks, protecting our health and the planet.

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