For Immediate Release: Contact:

December 7, 2004 Mike Belliveau, 827-6331

Amanda Sears, 939-7333

Environmental Health Strategy Center

Maine Ranks First in Nation in PVC Waste Incineration

- more than 5,000 tons of dioxin-forming PVC burned annually

National Report on PVC - the Poison Plastic - Documents Looming Waste Crisis and Pervasive Health Hazards

Groups call on Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft to Replace PVC Packaging with Available Safe Materials like other Industry Leaders

The Environmental Health Strategy Center released a report today documenting the health and environmental hazards posed by PVC (the "poison plastic") during manufacturing, product use and disposal. Maine incinerates more PVC waste than any in other state (as a percent of total PVC waste generated), according to estimates in the report. PVC is widely used in plastic pipes, building materials (such as vinyl siding), consumer products (such as toys, tablecloths, shower curtains) and disposable packaging (such as bottles & ‘blister pack’ containers).

"When you burn PVC - the poison plastic - in waste incinerators, backyard burn barrels or on construction job sites, you form deadly dioxin, toxic air emissions and hazardous ash," said Michael Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center and co-author of the report.

PVC, Bad News Come in 3’s: The Poison Plastic, Health Hazards, and the Looming Waste Crisis concludes that 7 billion pounds of PVC are being thrown away in the U.S. each year — but there is no 'away' as PVC waste poses perpetual hazards. PVC products are often labeled with a ‘3’ or a ‘V’.

"You can’t recycle PVC and this poison plastic also contaminates the recycling process for plastic beverage bottles and other reusable goods," said Amanda Sears, campaign director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center.

Maine relies on waste incineration to a greater extent than any state, burning two-thirds of its household trash in four municipal waste incinerators located in Portland, Biddeford, Auburn and Orrington. Discarded PVC plastic is the major source of chlorine in trash, which forms dioxins, the most toxic chemicals known to science, when burned.

The report estimates that 70 billion pounds of PVC plastic (polyvinyl chloride) are slated for nationwide disposal in the next decade. And, the problem is going to get worse. Disposal rates are expected to sharply increase as an estimated 125 billion pounds of PVC installed in the last 40 years in construction and other long lasting uses will need to be disposed of as it reaches the end of its useful life.

To prevent harm from PVC, the Environmental Health Strategy Center joined with the Center for Health, Environment & Justice to kick off a national campaign to convince Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft to phase out PVC use. These corporate targets are large users of PVC packaging such as Microsoft’s blister packs on computer software products and Johnson and Johnson’s Kids Detangling Shampoo bottles. A growing number of corporations are phasing out PVC, such as Nike and Firestone.

"Manufacturers of medical IV bags and tubing are switching from using PVC to avoid direct patient exposure to phthalates, a toxic additive, as well as the public and environmental health impacts of PVC throughout its life cycle," said Ted Schettler MD, MPH of the Science and Environmental Health Network.  "Companies realize that protecting the public health and the environment is the right thing to do and makes good business sense."

At a "send back the vinyl" event in Portland, the Environmental Health Strategy Center boxed up PVC packaging and sent it back to the companies urging them to endorse the PVC-Free Pledge. The Environmental Health Strategy Center urged consumers to check for a "3" or "V" to identify and avoid PVC products, noting "bad things come in 3’s—pollution, health hazards and the looming waste crisis."

PVC is estimated to contribute from 38 to 67% of the total chlorine found in solid waste, from 90 to 98% of phthalates, from 1 to 28% of the lead, and 10% of the cadmium (pg. 14 Report). Cadmium, lead, organotins and phthalates are commonly released from PVC waste in landfills (pg. 37 Report).

Burning PVC plastic, which contains 57% chlorine when pure, forms dioxins, a highly toxic group of chemicals. PVC is the major contributor of chlorine to four combustion sources—municipal solid waste incinerators, backyard burn barrels, medical waste incinerators and secondary copper smelters—that account for a significant portion of dioxin air emissions; these four sources accounted for more than 80% of dioxin emissions to air based on a USEPA survey (pg. 2 Report).

The report was co-released by the Center for Environment, Health and Justice’s BE SAFE precautionary campaign and the Environmental Health Strategy Center. Based in Maine, the Environmental Health Strategy Center is public health think-tank that advocates protection from toxic chemical exposures

Visit www.preventharm.org for more information or www.besafenet.com/pvc.htm for full documentation.

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