Towards a ban on PVC, the toxic plastic in our daily lives 

Things that are not spoken about, often do not feel real. A perfect example of this is polyvinyl chloride, better known as PVC or vinyl.  You probably haven’t heard much about this plastic, even though it permeates our daily lives. More importantly, you probably don’t know much about how harmful it is for human health and the environment.  It is urgent that we start talking about the risks of PVC so that they become more visible, and so that we can learn how to better protect ourselves from them.  

Worldwide, polyvinyl chloride (PVC)  is one of the most widely produced and consumed plastics, in both hard and flexible form. According to the market research institute Opis, the global production capacity for PVC in 2022 almost reached 61 million tonnes. PVC is versatile and relatively cheap, which is why it is so popular and has so many different uses. We find it in (food-)packaging, doors, windows, walls, pipes, drains, flooring, shower curtains, pens, children’s toys, credit cards, car parts, building materials, hospital supplies and many other products. As mentioned above, it’s part of our lives! It seems very useful, but these benefits come at a cost to society. The price we are paying for producing/using a PVC pipe or a low-cost inflatable toy (seemingly harmless) is much higher than we think. In fact, PVC is so common that it is a major source of a multitude of toxic substances that pollute our planet and damage our health.  

The impact of PVC 

PVC and its additives pollute humans and the environment throughout their life cycle (production, use and disposal), releasing toxic chemicals that accumulate in water, air, soil and the food chain. The PVC production process contributes to climate change, environmental degradation, damages the ozone layer and requires the use of large amounts of energy. Scientific evidence shows that PVC and its raw materials (some of which are extremely harmful, such as chlorine) expose humans to toxic substances, which are linked to serious and widespread health problems. These include infertility, immune system damage, child development disorders, hormone disruption, cancer, and many other harmful health conditions. During the production process, workers can be exposed to these substances, and subsequently consumers through PVC products (from food packaging to sanitary equipment). PVC pipes for example can contaminate drinking water, exposing people to harmful pollutants such as lead. At the end of its life cycle, the ultimate disposal of PVC is also highly polluting. It is very difficult to recycle due to the toxic substances it contains. Thus, a lot of PVC waste ends up in landfills or is burned in waste incinerators. In addition to polluting water bodies (also) through the presence of microplastics, PVC waste combustion releases toxic emissions such as dioxins into the environment.  

Even though all these harmful effects are scientifically proven since decades, PVC remains one of the most produced and used plastics in the world and the vinyl industry grows further. PVC is so embedded in our everyday life that it seems that if we don’t talk about it, its risks are overlooked. Why are the juicy details about the harmful effects across PVC’s lifecycle hidden from us? Do we have a choice as a society and as consumers? Of course, there are many measures we can support, such as calling for transparency in production and supply chains or supporting initiatives that promote disclosure of the environmental and health impacts of PVC; we can also look for and support products made from alternative materials that have a fewer adverse impact. PVC can be replaced by safer materials in almost all its uses, such as wood, concrete, metal, clay, glass, ceramics, or linoleum. Or even chlorine-free plastics. But the responsibility does not remain on individual consumer actions. We need structural and common measures to move towards a just transition to a PVC-free future, but it will require much more political will. 

Looking back to change the future

For more than 20 years, the European Commission has been aware of the serious consequences of PVC for human health and the environment. Despite this, industry has lobbied to delay measures to restrict the production and use of PVC on the grounds that the benefits of PVC outweigh its harmful effects. We assume they are referring to its economic benefits, not to the common benefit of the population and the environment. Because the price we are paying, by needlessly risking our health and wellbeing, is enormous.  

The 2022 Restrictions Roadmap is a bold European plan to ban the most hazardous chemicals, including PVC and its additives. In this context, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is publishing soon an investigation report to collect evidence on the risks of PVC and its additives, which will be published soon and is a first step towards banning PVC. Only the phasing out of PVC can mitigate its harmful effects on human health and the environment. It is an essential step towards the EU’s Zero Pollution targets and paving the way for a toxic-free future.  

More than 60 environmental NGOs from around the world are calling on EU policy makers to act . It is urgent to develop the necessary measures to phase out this harmful plastic from our lives and the environment by 2030. All these civil society organizations are calling on citizens to join us in this call to action. We need all the support we can get to counter the power of the PVC industry.  

There are many more of us who want to move towards a fairer world that takes care of people and the environment. That’s why, in addition to informing you about the harmful effects of PVC,. we also ask you to join this call to action to ban PVC by signing this petition and sharing it with the world. Together we are stronger.  

The call to action to ban PVC is available to spread and share in several languages!

Act now to ban PVC

¡Actúa para prohibir el PVC!

Agir agora para proibir o PVC

Mobilisons-nous pour interdire le PVC !

Handelt jetzt und verbietet PVC

Agire ora per vietare il PVC