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What Is Polyvinyl Chloride?

Polyvinyl chloride (also called PVC) is a type of plastic. Many people are actually familiar with it. Nearly all homes are fitted with PVC pipes. It is also used to make anything from water bottles to wall pipes, window frames to wall panels, credit cards to cling film, pens to credit cards. Even imitation leather is made from Polyvinyl Chloride, and that is used to make fashion accessories to furniture upholstery!

Polyvinyl Chloride was first invented in 1913. It was the first synthetic product that was actually placed under patent, and since then, it has been incorporated in a number of industrial and consumer products. However, there is currently some “backlash” particularly from environmental and health groups. Polyvinyl Chloride is quite dangerous and risky to make, and exposes both the workers and the surrounding community to environmental threats. Health groups also point out its tendency to “leech” harmful chemicals, so products can contaminate the environment and pose serious long-term hazards to users. For example, some blame PVC products for ground water contamination.

Polyvinyl Chloride is durable, yes—but perhaps too much. It is not bio degradable leading to entire landfills overflowing with this potentially toxic substance. Unfortunately, burning Polyvinyl Chloride is not an option either, because of the harmful gases it can emit. Recycling is also difficult because of the additives incorporated in the manufacturing process.

With the environmental hazards posed by polyvinyl chloride the industry must begin to rethink its use and perhaps look for safer, earth-friendly alternatives. For example, the manufacturing process (and the byproduct of organochlorines) have been liked to the destruction of the ozone layer and toxic substances like DDT.

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