Toxic Plastic 3 - Turn Over the Bottle and Look!
I strive to keep my home environment as natural as I possibly can. We eschew as many big commercial products as possible, knowing that this is step one to avoiding many toxins. However, shopping 'natural' or shopping 'organic' is no guarantee that you've weeded out the bad stuff. For about a year now, I've been using Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat Shampoo, because I was impressed by its short list of ingredients and claims of using organic botanicals. No animal bi-products, no animal testing. I thought I was making a good choice.
And then I learned about Toxic Plastic 3.
You've probably heard of Toxic plastic 3 by its other name, PVC, or Vinyl. PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) is considered by many experts to be the most dangerous, carcinogenic plastic ever created by man. It cannot be recycled. It will sit in our landfills until kingdom come, emitting carcinogenic chemicals into the air, water and soil. And despite the studies showing the incredible toxicity of this substance, the FDA approves it for use in the packaging of our food, our health care products, and our medicines.
Where will you find Toxic Plastic 3 in your home?
Turn over any plastic container you have around the house. If you see a '3' or a 'V' stamped into the plastic, you are holding PVC in your hand. As you've guessed, I found that ominous '3' on the bottom of my organic Giovanni shampoo. You will find it on products manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, and Sesame Street bath products. Emeril's Salad Dressing, ACT fluoride rinse, and a host of other health and food items are packaged in this plastic. The carcinogens leach into the products they contain, resulting in your eating PVC and lathering it into your hair, teeth and skin.
Children's toys feature rampant use of PVC. A child chewing on his rubber ducky in the bath is being exposed to levels of cancer-causing chemicals which have led to such items being banned in many European countries. Yet, here in the U.S., you will not even be told that the toys your children play with, the shower curtain in your bathroom, or the pipes under your house contain PVC. PVC causes cancer and kidney damage, and when burned (as in the case of a kitchen fire or house fire) it results in long term respiratory damage.
Greenpeace has written some excellent articles regarding finding alternatives to PVC for your home, and more than 50 environmental groups in the U.S. are currently petitioning numerous stores to stop selling vinyl-containing products. Unfortunately, as with so many consumer product hazards, PVC vinyl continues to receive scant media attention, despite its well-documented harmfulness.
Make the first step toward ridding your home of PVC
Look for the '3' or the 'V' on any plastic or vinyl product in your house. PVC products are often somewhat rubbery and flexible, but not always. PVC gives off a distinct chemical smell (you know, that new shower curtain/new car smell). What you are smelling is toxic gas being released when you open up a new PVC-containing home product. Even if you don't find a '3' or a 'V', but are concerned that an item in your home might contain PVC, please contact the manufacturer to ask. Because our government continues to authorize the use of toxic PVC in the manufacture of homes, cars and products, you are unlikely to be able to completely avoid exposure to it, but you certainly don't need to have it in your shampoo or in the toys your children are playing with. Your first step is to dispose of offending items, and when buying plastic is essential, to choose an alternatively numbered substance. If you'd like to do more, visit Greenpeace for further information.
- For further reading, the Grassroots Recycling network provides access to several extensive reports on PVC toxicity and recycling.
Updated by Miriam Ellis-Loraditch on 24 August, 2009