:: Polyvinyl Chloride :: Theben
The Benefits and Safety of Vinyl
As the material of choice for blood bags and medical tubing,
vinyl helps to maintain the world's blood supply and supports
critical healthcare procedures such as dialysis. As a packaging
material, vinyl helps to keep meats and other foods safe and
fresh during transportation and on store shelves, and it provides
tamper-resistant packaging for food, pharmaceuticals and other
products. Because it will not rust or corrode and breaks far
less frequently than alternative materials, vinyl is widely
used in water pipes to deliver clean, safe-to-drink water and
in sewer pipes to ensure the integrity of wastewater handling
systems. Vinyl's resistance to breakdown under high electrical
voltage and its ability to bend without cracking make it the
leading material for wire and cable insulation. As an underbody
coating on automobiles, vinyl has helped to add years to the
life of motor vehicles. Vinyl's toughness and durability make
it the most widely used plastic for building and construction
applications such as siding, windows, roofing, fencing, decking,
wallcoverings and flooring. These are just a few of the myriad,
cost-effective uses of vinyl in everyday life.
What is vinyl used for?
Is vinyl safe?
Yes. Vinyl (or PVC) has been used in products for decades without
any evidence of harm to human health. Vinyl is used in medical
products such as blood bags and medical tubing and in such food-contact
applications as meat wrap, bottles and can enamel. These products
are regulated for safety by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
According to Bruce Burlington, MD, director, FDA's Center for
Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), "We believe that
IV bags, blood administration sets and other uses of PVC including
dialysis tubing are safe" (Boston Globe, Feb. 22, 1999).
Alternative materials may not be available or may not offer
the important performance characteristics that vinyl offers
for these and other uses. This point was made by David Feigal,
MD, medical deputy director, FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation
& Research (CBER), who said, "
we would need to
see a substantial amount of testing to make sure we weren't
moving from a product with good characteristics to one that
we don't know very much about" (Washington Post, Feb. 22,
In another example of its safety, vinyl is used in pipes certified
to meet American National Standards Institute/National Sanitation
Foundation Standard 61 for safe use in drinking water service.
How are vinyl industry workers and surrounding communities
All vinyl manufacturing facilities are closely regulated by
the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Workplace exposure
limits are highly protective. The industry uses an enclosed
process to produce vinyl that minimizes environmental releases
and worker exposure to vinyl chloride (VCM). Vinyl manufacturers
are also required to have ongoing training programs and safety
drills that keep employees prepared and protected.
What risk does the public face by having a vinyl chloride
manufacturing facility in its midst?
Since the 1970s, individual manufacturing plants have conducted
monitoring of surrounding communities to identify potential
exposures to nearby residents from the vinyl production process.
Several independent studies have also been undertaken to determine
an association between exposure to vinyl chloride (VCM) and
cancer in the general population. These include studies conducted
by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and specific reviews
conducted in the states of New York and Wisconsin, as well as
in Great Britain, Sweden, Holland and Canada. Representatives
of the U.S. EPA have stated that the agency has been unable
to establish a link between living near a VCM/PVC plant and
angiosarcoma, a rare form of liver cancer associated with high
exposure to vinyl chloride.
How are vinyl manufacturers protecting the environment?
Over the past several years, vinyl production has risen while
environmental releases associated with production and disposal
have fallen. This is due in part to the fact that vinyl has
been regulated for decades, ensuring that workers, local communities
and the environment are protected at each step in the life
cycle of the material and the products made from it. Just
as important, the vinyl industry instituted its own voluntary
programs to improve manufacturing efficiencies and reduce
emissions - extending the impact of government efforts even
further. The vinyl industry supported strict federal standards
for incinerators that are now being phased in.