It's Official: Vinyl Chemicals Cause Cancer

Another chemical used in plastics and building materials has wound up on California's list of cancer-causers and other health hazards.

December 18, 2013

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PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is often dubbed the most toxic plastic on the planet because of all the harmful vinyl chemicals used to manufacture it and the ones released during its use and disposal, such as lead, used to protect the plastic against UV exposure, and chlorine gas, which releases mercury and cancer-causing dioxins during production.

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Now there's one more strike against it: A vinyl chemical called diisononyl phthalate (DiNP), the chemical used to keep PVC flexible and pliable (think shower curtains and garden hoses), has just been dubbed a carcinogen by the California Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. That means the chemical will wind up on the state's notorious Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer and reproductive harm, and that all products containing DiNP must bear a warning label.

More from Rodale News: 7 Freaky Reasons to Ditch Plastic

The agency has yet to determine what's considered a safe exposure level to the chemical, but DiNP is used in 90 percent of vinyl products on the market, so you're likely exposed to it in some way every day. The chemical is used in electrical wire and cable insulation, vinyl flooring, roofing materials, vinyl-coated fabrics, toys, garden hoses, raincoats, rainboots, and anything made with PVC-based artificial or "vegan" leather. It's also used to some extent in paints, sealants, and adhesives.

Among the evidence cited for including DiNP on the Proposition 65 list were animal studies finding a link between the chemical and blood and bone marrow cancers as well as tumors in the liver, kidney, uterus, and pancreas.

The state has already listed other common plastic chemicals on Proposition 65's list, including BPA, the hormone disruptor found in some plastics labeled #7 and in the lining of most canned foods, and another phthalate, DEHP, which is also used in PVC. BPA was listed for its reproductive effects, while DEHP was included as a carcinogen.

Freaked out? Say no to vinyl, and that's final! The easiest way to identify this toxic plastic is to avoid any plastic products with the #3 in the triangle of arrows on the bottom. If you're not sure, give it a sniff test: PVC products emit a telltale plasticky odor that will remind you of a new shower curtain