RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 22/03/01
Last week's Government life cycle analysis of PVC
 is branded "a useless paper exercise" by the Healthy Flooring
Network (HFN), a network of health and environment groups. The analysis
for the DETR appears to give a "thumbs-up" to PVC in terms of its
environmental impact but, says HFN, it fails to address the most
serious concern so far linked to PVC - the toxic chemicals released
into the environment during its production and disposal, and in
the case of phthalates during its very presence in our homes and
"This paltry Government attempt to act responsibly
over PVC is a farce," says Helen Lynn, spokesperson for HFN and
Health Co-ordinator for the Women's Environmental Network. "Without
addressing the health and environmental concerns of the toxic pollutants
inherent in PVC this exercise does more harm than good. It leaves
out the very thing we should be worried about."
The life cycle analysis concluded that PVC's life
cycle impacts are not significantly higher than those of alternatives,
but the analysis focussed almost entirely on issues related to energy
consumption. Environmental and human health impacts were not included
because the authors, consultancies Entec UK and Ecobalance UK, felt
unable to quantify them.
Yet environmental groups including HFN have only recently
submitted evidence to the EU  specifying the toxicity of PVC's
raw ingredients as well as its potential by-products - especially
dioxin created during manufacture and incineration - as the major
causes for concern. Europe is just considering measures to control
the production of PVC.
"The UK Government's inadequate report could not have
come at a worse time. The idea that PVC is not too bad must be corrected
immediately," said Helen Lynn. The Government analysis did find
that PVC was worse for flooring than timber and linoleum - but because
it uses more energy and non-renewable resources; contributes more
to global warming and generates more waste. The serious issue of
toxic chemicals was sadly missed.
Recently HFN exposed high levels of some toxic chemicals
when they commissioned independent laboratory analysis of some of
Britain's most popular vinyl (PVC) floors . This analysis showed
that vinyl is loaded with chemicals that could escape into the indoor
environment. The most significant finding was high levels of an
organotin, tributyl tin (TBT), known to cause a condition called
'imposex' in populations of molluscs. In this condition females
grow male sex organs and become sterile. The use of TBT as an antifouling
agent on ship's hulls is to be banned by the International Maritime
Organisation. It is highly likely that organotins leach out of PVC
into the indoor environment.
Studies have shown that phthalates used as softeners
in flexible PVC do escape. They leach out from vinyl flooring, are
washed out during cleaning and can attach themselves to particles
such as house dust. BBP is one of the phthalates causing most concern
about its toxicity. Of five vinyl flooring samples analysed - from
Marley Floors, B&Q, Gerflor Ltd., Armstrong, and Forbo Nairn, three
- Gerflor, Armstrong and Forbo Nairn - contained very high levels
of benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP). DINP, another phthalate, was found
in all of the samples. Both BBP and DINP have been banned from chewy
children's toys because of their potential health effects.
There is growing evidence that phthalates can contribute
to allergic disease and other health problems. One Nordic study
linked exposure to these chemicals to inflammation of the lung airways
and increased risk of asthma, while others have raised fears that
phthalates act as hormone disruptors.
Today HFN challenged the Department of Environment,
Transport and Regions to admit its life cycle analysis is inadequate.
"We urge Michael Meacher to support moves within the EU to regulate
this toxic product. That would really be doing something useful
in the battle to reduce toxic pollution of our indoor and outdoor
For more information please contact Helen Lynn
0207 481 9004.
1. DETR PRESS RELEASE, 13/03/01
2. The data for the HFN study on Hazardous Chemicals in PVC Flooring
was submitted to the European Commission's public consultation on
Environmental Issues of PVC, in November 2000. The European Parliament's
deliberations on PVC are due to continue on April 6th 2001.
3. The HFN report, "Poison Underfoot - Hazardous Chemicals in PVC
Flooring" is available from www.healthyflooring.org
or from HFN, c/o The Women's Environmental Network, PO Box 30626,
London E1 1TZ.