The odds are stacked against PVC
“Many of the by-products of the PVC lifecycle are now ubiquitous global pollutants, which can be found not only in industrialised regions but in the planet’s most remote ecosystems. They are now found in the tissues of whales in the deep oceans, polar bears in the high Arctic, and virtually every human being on earth.” – Joe Thornton in “Environmental Impacts of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Building Materials, 2002.”
It is no secret that polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC) poses serious health and environmental risks throughout the full lifecycle of the product. For more than a decade, the evidence revealing these hazards has continued to grow, yet vinyl is still one of the more commonly used plastics building materials and household items in the world. In a 2013 report on global PVC production, 31 million tonnes of PVC was produced per year.
As early as 2002, Mr Joe Thornton, Professor at the University of Oregon and former postdoctoral research scientist of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, explained how detrimental the production of PVC is to both humans and the environment. Not only does PVC not break down in the environment, by-products for the actual manufacturing of PVC releases harmful chemicals into the atmosphere.
What is being excreted during PVC production?
During the vinyl lifecycle, very large quantities of hazardous by-products are either accidentally formed and released into the environment, or released during incineration to break down used vinyl.
“Formation of hazardous organochlorine by-products begins with the production of chlorine gas. Extremely large quantities of chlorine-rich hazardous wastes are generated in the synthesis of ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride monomer.
“Vinyl is also a major dioxin source. Dioxins are global pollutants and are now found in the tissues of whales in the deep oceans, polar bears in the high Arctic, and virtually every human being on earth.
“Human infants receive particularly high doses, because dioxins cross the placenta easily and concentrate in breast milk.
“There is no known safe dose of dioxin. Dioxin causes damage to development, reproduction, and the immune and endocrine systems,” states Mr Thornton.
“More by-products are created and released into the environment during the incineration of vinyl products in the waste stream, as well as during the recycling of vinyl-containing metal products by combustion, and the accidental burning of PVC in fires in buildings, warehouses, or landfills.
“By-products of PVC production are highly persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBTs).”
“Many of the by-products of the vinyl lifecycle are of great concern, because of their persistent bioaccumulative toxicity.
“Persistence means that a substance resists natural degradation, builds up over time in the environment, and can be distributed globally on currents of wind and water.
“Absolutely every person on earth is now exposed to these substances.”
The report also points out that a very large portion of PVC by-products consist of chemicals that have not yet been identified or tested.
A better option
Chris Bauer, head of flooring at Hychem says the tide is turning and people are demanding that alternative flooring solutions are sourced.
“The findings in Mr Thornton’s report are alarming and must not be overlooked.
“We need to find cost-effective alternatives that share the benefits of vinyl without the harmful pollutants that go with it,” said Mr Bauer.
Mr Bauer also points out that as vinyl does not break down and cannot be recycled. Not only is this a problem for the environment, it also means that companies are faced with high costs for vinyl removal as well as difficulties complying with health and safety standards.
Steering clear of PVC
According to Mr Bauer, alternatives to vinyl flooring are becoming more and more accessible and provide contractors with safe and hard-wearing alternatives to PVC.
“Polyurethane flooring solutions provide the same versatility as traditional vinyl flooring. They are soft under foot and eco-friendly with an excellent life-span and abrasion resistance.
Hychem has a range of flooring solutions that are safer, stronger and aesthetically more attractive than PVC.
“When it comes to flooring, there is simply no need to use PVC.”