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When is Vinyl not PVC?

There is a growing awareness of PVC’s toxic nature, but the quest to avoid it is daunting.   In order to successfully stay away from such a pervasive plastic, we need to take a closer look at what it is and where it’s found.

Common uses for PVC

PVC is everywhere and can be difficult to avoid.  It’s commonly used in bath toys, teethers, baby bibs, pool toys, children’s playground ball pits, dog toys, shower curtains and in almost all non-slip bath mats.  And that’s just for starters . . .

Is “vinyl” the same as PVC?

Vinyl is commonly used as a nickname for polyvinyl chloride (PVC).  It can generally be assumed that a product is made with PVC when the term “vinyl” is used to describe it.  This is a red flag so before buying, the product should be investigated further.

The Healthy Building Network offers an extremely informative article on PVC.  They explain that in chemistry, the term “vinyl” actually has a broader meaning, encompassing a range of different thermoplastic chemical compounds.  In addition to PVC, “vinyls” may also include:

  • Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA)
  • Polyethylene Vinyl Acetate (PEVA) a copolymer of polyethylene and EVA

EVA and PEVA are commonly used in baby teethers, bibs, inner water-proof lining of reusable food containers (lunch bags and sandwich wraps), shower curtains, shock absorber in tennis shoes, Crocs brand shoes, padding in equipment for various sports such as ski boots, and even biomedical engineering applications as a drug delivery device used within the body.

What makes PVC different from EVA and PEVA?

PVC is different because of the addition of chlorine.  Chlorine is a major health concern associated with PVC, but it isn’t the only problem.  Earth911 discusses the full effects PVC, and the facts are stunning:

  • Due to its chlorinated makeup, the entire life cycle of vinyl is responsible for the formation of more dioxin than any other single product.  Dioxin is a well-known carcinogen and can affect the reproductive, immune, endocrine and neurological systems.
  • Chlorine production for PVC results in the release of over 200,000 pounds of mercury to air, water and land each year.
  • To make vinyl products flexible, controversial plasticizers known as phthalates are used, accounting for nearly 90 percent of total phthalate consumption. This translates into more than five million tons used for vinyl every year.
  • Lead is often added to vinyl construction products as a stabilizer to extend its life. It is estimated that 45,000 tons of lead each year are released into the environment during its disposal by incineration.

How do we avoid PVC?

Take an extra minute to investigate the materials used in products before you buy.  You’ll need to assume that the term “vinyl” means PVC until you’ve been able to verify the details with manufacturer.  The Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) recommends the avoidance of PVC and the alternative use of EVA and PEVA as safer substitutes to PVC in their campaign, PVC: The Poison Plastic.

>> Download CHEJ’s Pass Up the Poison Plastic PVC-Free Guide

>> Shop for PVC-free products The Soft Landing’s Shopping Guides

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Alicia Voorhies is a Registered Nurse who decided to take a break to relax and enjoy her young kids after 13 years of working with disabled adults. She began to explore the world of alternative health ideas and was immediately attracted to the mysteries of endocrine disruptors and their effect on children. In 2007 she founded The Soft Landing along with her mom and sisters to help parents provide a safe, natural home for their children without drowning in an overwhelming sea of information.

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  • Tamara @ Parenting By Nature

    Great article! We've been strongly apposed to vinyl and PVC toys for our children for years and customers often ask us “what's the harm?”. So great to see an increased awareness.

  • Lettie

    I understand that PVC is evil and should be avoided. I also understand that plastics in general should be avoided, but I was hoping that this article would address where EVA and PEVA fall on the scale. It seems to imply that only PVC vinyl should be avoided, but never affirmed one way or the other with regards to the two options.

  • http://thesoftlanding.com thesoftlanding

    Hi Lettie,

    I addressed the use of EVA and PEVA as safer alternatives to PVC in the last paragraph:

    “The Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) recommends the avoidance of PVC and the alternative use of EVA and PEVA as safer substitutes to PVC in their campaign, PVC: The Poison Plastic.”

    EVA and PEVA are different because they do not require the use of chlorine or phthalates. This makes them a safer substitute for PVC.

    Hope that helps,

    Alicia

  • http://thesoftlanding.com thesoftlanding

    Hi Lettie,

    I addressed the use of EVA and PEVA as safer alternatives to PVC in the last paragraph:

    “The Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) recommends the avoidance of PVC and the alternative use of EVA and PEVA as safer substitutes to PVC in their campaign, PVC: The Poison Plastic.”

    EVA and PEVA are different because they do not require the use of chlorine or phthalates. This makes them a safer substitute for PVC.

    Hope that helps,

    Alicia

  • http://alittlebitofmomsense.blogspot.com Rebecca

    Great article! We bought a PVC-free crib mattress for this reason.

  • Cindy

    Yes, great article!

  • Katy

    Thank you for the article. Are shoes like Crocs safe for kids (from the plastic stand point)?

  • Multi-Tasking Mommy

    Thank you so much for this post! I truly do appreciate it, as does my family!

    Do you guys ship to Canada?

  • http://the-colic.blogspot.com/ colic

    thanks for this great articles!!!!

  • Multi-Tasking Mommy

    Thank you so much for this post! I truly do appreciate it, as does my family!

    Do you guys ship to Canada?

  • http://the-colic.blogspot.com/ colic

    thanks for this great articles!!!!

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  • paul

    Alicia,

    Lettie's point still not addressed. That is, looking at PVC, EVA and PEVA, PVC is obviously the worst. Which is “best”? Or, “Least problematic”? PEVA or EVA? Or, are PEVA and EVA about equal.

  • http://thesoftlanding.com Alicia

    Hi Paul,

    PEVA and EVA are considered to be about the same at this point in time by experts in the area of PVC alternatives (CHEJ.org is my main source for this info). Both are made from petrochemicals, but they have very low toxicity overall.

    Alicia

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