The Bad News
Commonly known as vinyl, PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is an environmental health hazard. Prevalent in toys, shower curtains and packaging, PVC often contains toxic lead and phthalates (additives that make plastic more flexible). Young children who put PVC toys in their mouths are especially vulnerable to the chemicals. Outgasing from a single vinyl shower curtain can raise a home’s toxic indoor-air concentrations for more than a month, according to a 2002 study.
Dioxin, a known human carcinogen, is created during PVC manufacturing and when PVC is incinerated. Almost none of the plastic is recyclable.
The Good News
Target, Sears and Kmart have recently pledged to reduce PVC in private-label products. They join Wal-Mart in helping curb use of the plastic.
Currently, all Target-branded children’s utensils, lunchboxes and baby bibs are made of non-PVC materials. Soon 85 to 95 percent of Target-brand shower curtains, placemats and tablecloths will be non-PVC. Target’s goal is to make most of its name-brand toys phthalate-free by fall 2008. (www.Target.com)
Kmart and Sears will phase out PVC from private-label products and packaging over time. They’ll label their merchandise as "PVC free" as changes are made. (www.SearsHoldings.com)
All three retailers are asking vendors to reduce or eliminate PVC in their products and packaging.