What is PVC?

Find out what you need to know about PVC.

| July/August 2004

How do I know if something’s made from PVC?

Many PVC items, especially flexible ones, have a strong odor when new. The smell of a new plastic shower curtain is a sign that it’s probably made from PVC.

What is PVC?

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC or just “vinyl”) is the second most widely used plastic in the world. It is relatively cheap to produce (ignoring cost to health and the environment) and can be made into either rigid or flexible products. From shower curtains to garden hoses to children’s toys, the use of PVC is so pervasive that most of us use PVC products daily without a second thought.

The Healthy Building Network, a coalition of green building professionals and others interested in sustainable building materials and practices, has called PVC an environmental health disaster. Its production involves the use and release of extremely toxic chemicals. Flexible PVC products contain toxic plasticizers that leach out of the material and can be a health hazard for users.

What makes PVC so bad?

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