Letter: PVC: no place in the future

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Sir: I write to address some of the points made by Francis Evans regarding the toxicity of PVC, a material proposed for the Millennium Dome (Letters, 30 July).

The Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) are not the only organisation to compare PVC with other materials. A far more authoritative comparative study published by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency found a number of alternatives to be preferable after considering the full PVC life-cycle. Their conclusions were based upon considerations of not only the parent material but of the additives commonly used in the final products.

There are well-founded concerns about the use of PVC in blood transfusion products because of the release of phthalate plasticisers; the phthalate DINP that Mr Evans describes as "safe" has a wide range of potential adverse effects. It consequently carries warning labelling requirements under the EU Hazardous Substance Directive. Indeed, concerns about the possible toxic effects of phthalates in general have led the Danish government to initiate moves to phase out the use of such PVC.

The CSIRO report and Professor Christopher Rappe consider only emissions of dioxins to the atmosphere. PVC manufacture generates dioxins predominantly in solid process wastes. Much evidence suggests that the presence of PVC in feedstocks may also be responsible for the substantial dioxin emissions known to result from waste disposal/incineration processes and from scrap metal smelting.

Every assertion that PVC is harmless can be counterbalanced by legitimate concerns, supported by scientific evidence. Generation of dioxin-contaminated wastes, the use of toxic additives, toxic fumes produced in fires, lack of recyclability: all these considerations contributed to the decision by the Austrian Supreme Court to uphold Greenpeace's right to describe PVC as an "environmental poison", in the face of strenuous objections by PVC manufacturing concerns.

Francis Evans' defence of his product is quite understandable, but the environment in the next millennium would be better served by recognition that PVC can play no part in the sustainable society envisioned for the future.


Greenpeace Research Laboratories

Exeter, Devon