The planetary boundary for chemical and plastic pollution has already
been exceeded - yet we continue to live our lives surrounded by PVC
(polyvinyl chloride) and its additives, which pose a well recognised
risk to human and environmental health.
PVC exposes humans to toxic, carcinogenic chemicals and contaminants,
posing a threat to water sources, the ozone layer, and other natural
elements which are integral to the health of our planet.
Due to its affordability and versatility, PVC is an attractive
material for the products we interact with every day - from
construction and packaging to medical applications. But plenty of the
chemical substances in PVC products threaten the health of people and
the planet - as well as fuel other crises that the EU is taking
regulatory measures against, such as PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ and
microplastics. We are still left in the dark by industry about the
potentially hazardous properties of other additives.
All current scientific evidence shows that using PVC is problematic,
leading to significant health and environmental issues at all stages
of its lifecycle. Sustainable production and use of PVC is, therefore,
To address these risks, NGOs call on EU policymakers to put an end to
PVC and develop a plan for a full phase out of the material by 2030.
At the core of this plan should be a broad restriction of the
production, use and market entry of PVC under REACH across sectors.
WHY IS ACTION NEEDED?
PVC has negative impacts on the environment and human health at
every stage of its life cycle - production, use and
Communities and workers are exposed to highly
hazardous chemicals released during the production of PVC and its
feedstocks, including carcinogens such as ethylene dichloride, vinyl
chloride monomer, dioxins, heavy metals and asbestos among others.
The use and release of persistent PFAS - ‘forever
chemicals’ - in chlorine production.
One way to produce the vinyl chloride monomer is by using acetylene
which in its production uses coal and emits mercury, contributing to
climate change and
PVC damages the ozone layer through the release of
PVC production requires high amounts of energy
compared to other consumer plastics.
PVC has adverse effects on
human health and the environment
due to high volumes of harmful additives such as lead stabilisers
and phthalates that are being released during use and end-of-life.
Commonly used PVC for consumer products - such as
food packaging and childrens toys -
exposes people to these additives.
Drinking water contamination from PVC plumbing
exposes people to harmful contaminants such as lead and volatile
PVC is a very difficult plastic to recycle: its
hazardous ingredients hinder toxic-free reuse and recycling.
During the landfill or burning process of PVC,
harmful chemicals such as heavy metals, dioxins
and furans are emitted.
Water sources are contaminated by microplastics and toxic chemicals
from PVC waste dumping.
To prevent PVC - the most environmentally damaging form of plastic -
from causing further harm, urgent action is needed.
A HISTORY OF INACTION
In 2000, the European Commission published a Green Paper on the
"Environmental issues of PVC", pointing to the fact that
PVC causes several problems for the environment and human health.
The paper showed that an “
integrated approach is therefore necessary to assess the whole life
cycle of PVC in order to develop the necessary measures to ensure a
high level of protection of human health and the environment as well
as the proper functioning of the internal market”.
Despite these conclusions, made more than 20 years ago, the PVC
industry managed to derail the debates on addressing the issues posed
by PVC with intense lobbying. By claiming that technical progress has
reduced some of the risks related to PVC, and that its alleged
societal benefits outweigh the overall drawbacks, the industry is
delaying much needed action.
Companies along the PVC product value-chain are now also engaging in
‘regrettable substitution’ - i.e. switching out a regulated substance
for an unregulated one, which poses and equal hazard, meaning that
harmful impacts remain.
The 2022 Restriction Roadmap, Europe’s bold plan to ban the most
hazardous chemicals, includes PVC and its additives in its list of
hazardous chemicals that should be restricted. As a first step the
European Commission has asked the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) for
the mandate to prepare an assessment of the risks of PVC and its
additives including the risks for circular economy and the intrinsic
risks of the polymer.
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN NOW
The damaging health and environmental impacts posed by PVC call for
a complete phase-out of this material.
To fulfil the ambitions of the EU Zero-Pollution Plan and non-toxic
environment initiatives, we ask the European Commission to swiftly
mandate an ambitious restriction on the production, use and placing on
the market of PVC and its additives under the REACH regulation. We
also call on the European Commission and its member states to demand a
global ban of PVC under the new Global Plastics Treaty.
Evidence shows that PVC can be replaced with safer materials for
almost all uses.
Only uses of PVC, for which no safer alternatives are available
and which are needed to protect our health or safety
or are critical for society - or essential uses - should be allowed
under strictly controlled conditions.
The European Commission must
act now to phase-out PVC by 2030.