While PVC (poly-vinyl chloride) is used everywhere from toys and medical devices to construction materials, it must be acknowledged that there are serious problems associated with it.
In order to be pliable vinyl plastic containers require the addition of a plasticizer. One commonly used to soften PVC is “DEHP, di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate.” This soft PVC presents some hazards when used in medical devices and/or infant feeding bottles. “DEHP is not chemically bound, but is dissolved physically in the plastic film.” DEHP is known to move into the contained liquid and then into the human body as said liquid is ingested or infused. This is more of a problem in vulnerable individuals with frequent exposure to the product(s) such as bottle fed infants and kidney dialysis patients. In the case of the bottle feeding infant; feeding bottles should be constructed of hard plastic and/or glass or of a material that does not contain DEHP. In the case of chronically ill populations in need of soft plastic medical devices such as intravenous tubing; efforts are being made to find safe alternatives by groups such as the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
PVC, which is a heavily chlorinated plastic, gives off dioxin when burned and this dioxin in turn gets into the air and eventually onto plants and into the food chain. Because PVC is used in many disposable applications, a lot of it gets burned. Bad, bad idea.
Occupational exposure to vinyl chloride was implicated in a famous cancer cluster case involving liver cancer among workers in Kentucky and reported by the Center for Disease Control.
These are not good things, in fact the environmental protection organization, Greenpeace, recommends “an overall dioxin prevention strategy that ultimately leads to a sunset on the production and use of PVC plastic” and on 4/25/01 launched a “unique international database, which finally offers a real choice for the construction industry between PVC products and more environmentally friendly alternatives”. This can be found on their web page, referenced below.
www.fda.gov/cber/minutes/plast101899.pdf (source of quotes about DEHP above)
www.cdc.gov (source of information about cancer clusters and occupational hazards)