Platts 2007/11/6

Target aims to reduce use of PVC in its products

Target is an upscale discounter that provides high-quality, on-trend merchandise at attractive prices in clean, spacious and guest-friendly stores. In addition, Target operates an online business,

Target has agreed to systematically reduce its use of polyvinyl chloride, according to a statement by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.

The Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) is the only national environmental organization that was founded and is led by a grassroots leader.  Lois Gibbs founded CHEJ after winning the nationfs first community relocation of 900 families due to a leaking toxic waste dump in Love Canal, New York.  Through this effort she also woke up the nation to recognize the link between peoplefs exposures to dangerous chemicals in the community setting and serious public health impacts.

According to the release, the company is reducing PVC in many of its products including shower curtains, infant products, children's toys, and packaging and fashion accessories.

Target has joined a list of other companies who are working to reduce or eliminate the use of PVC in their products. Other companies listed in the press release included Apple, Wal-Mart, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, and Nike.

There was no official word from Target as calls to the company were not returned.

According to the CHEJ release, Target is taking the following steps in its owned brands:

-- Eliminating PVC from a number of infant products and toys. Target children's eating utensils and lunchboxes are now PVC-free. Target baby bibs will be PVC-free by January 2008. Target is phasing out phthalates in most of their toys by Fall 2008 and eliminating phthalates in baby changing tables by January 2008.

-- Replacing many PVC/Vinyl shower curtains with ethylene vinyl acetate plastic. Target expects 88% of its shower curtains to be PVC free by spring.

-- Target will be 96% PVC-free in their placemat and table linen categories by Spring 2008.

-- Target soft-sided coolers are now PVC-free.

-- Reducing PVC in packaging. Target is reducing PVC packaging in the company's Target brand dinnerware, travel accessories, toys and sporting goods. For food packaging, Target has a requirement in place to avoid the use of PVC when possible. In the electronics category, Target is replacing the PVC clamshell with a modified paperboard/plastic packaging. The company is asking their vendors to reduce the amount of packaging on their products and use materials that are easily recyclable.

-- Target has engaged their merchandiser buyers through a new Sustainable Products Guide, which includes a section on PVC.


PVC - The Poison Plastic

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic, commonly referred to as vinyl, is one of the most hazardous consumer products ever created.  PVC is dangerous to human health and the environment throughout its entire life cycle, at the factory, in our homes, and in the trash.  Our bodies are contaminated with poisonous chemicals released during the PVC lifecycle, such as mercury, dioxins, and phthalates, which may pose irreversible life-long health threats.  When produced or burned, PVC plastic releases dioxins, a group of the most potent synthetic chemicals ever tested, which can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems.

New Car or Shower Curtain Smell?  The Smell of PVC

PVC is useless without the addition of a plethora of toxic additives, which can make the PVC product itself harmful to consumers.  These chemicals can evaporate or leach out of PVC, posing risks to children and consumers.  New car smell?  New shower curtain smell?  Thatfs the smell of poisonous chemicals off-gassing from the PVC.  One of the most common toxic additives is DEHP, a phthalate that is a suspected carcinogen and reproductive toxicant readily found in numerous PVC products.   Children can be exposed to phthalates by chewing on vinyl toys.  While it is still legal for US retailers to sell PVC childrenfs and baby toys containing dangerous phthalates, the European Parliament voted in July, 2005 to permanently ban the use of certain toxic phthalates in toys.   One EPA study found that vinyl shower curtains can cause elevated levels of dangerous air toxins, which can persist for more than a month.

Environmental Injustice

PVC plants are disproportionately located in low-income communities and communities of color, making the production of PVC a major environmental justice concern.  Communities surrounding vinyl chloride facilities suffer from groundwater and air pollution.  In 1999, the federal government measured dioxins in blood samples taken from 28 residents who lived near PVC facilities in Louisiana. The testing revealed the average resident has three times more dioxin in his/her blood than the average U.S. citizen.  Workers at PVC plants may face life-long health risks from exposure to cancer-causing vinyl chloride and other hazardous chemicals used to make PVC.  These health risks include angiosarcoma of the liver, lung cancer, brain cancer, lymphomas, leukemia, and liver cirrhosis.

Hazardous to Firefighters and Building Occupants

When heated in a building fire, PVC releases toxic hydrogen chloride gas, forming deadly hydrochloric acid when inhaled by firefighters and building occupants.  Firefighters face harmful occupational exposures when battling fires laden with PVC building materials and consumer products.  Building occupants may be killed from inhaling toxic PVC fumes before they are able to escape.  After September 11th, the EPA measured the highest ambient air concentrations of dioxins ever near ground zero, likely due to the combustion of PVC and other chlorinated materials.

A Contaminant to Recycling

PVC cannot be effectively recycled due to the many different toxic additives used to soften or stabilize PVC, which can contaminate the recycling batch.  Most consumers do not know that a 3 in the recycle symbol indicates that the plastic is made of PVC, and therefore recycle those products, inadvertently rendering thousands of potentially recycled containers useless.  In fact just one PVC bottle can contaminate a recycling load of 100,000 PET bottles.   Recycling of PVC is negligible, with estimates ranging from 0.1% to 3% of postconsumer PVC waste being recycled.

Safer, Healthier Alternatives are Readily Available

The good news is that safer, cost-effective, alternatives to PVC are readily available for virtually every use.  From safer plastics, to bio-based materials, there is a growing market replacing hazardous PVC products.  A growing list of companies have committed to phase out PVC products and switch to safer, healthier products.  Some of these companies include <!--[endif]--> Bath and Body Works, Honda, Ikea , Johnson and Johnson, Microsoft, Nike, Toyota, Victoria's Secret, and Wal-Mart. You can help build consumer demand for safer, healthier products by avoiding the purchase of PVC.  One way to be sure if the packaging of a product is made from PVC is to look for the number g3h inside or the letter gVh underneath the universal recycling symbol.  In addition, soft flexible plastic products that are made with PVC often have a distinct odor, such as vinyl shower curtains.  If you suspect that a product is made of PVC, contact the product manufacturer and ask them directly about the materials used in the product or packaging and your concerns about PVC.

Get Involved in the PVC Campaign!
Help Us Get the Poison Plastic Off Store Shelves

The Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ)fs BE SAFE network has launched a PVC campaign to encourage major companies to phase out their use of PVC and to support policies that phase out PVC.   We have already convinced Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Wal-Mart, Crabtree & Evelyn, Victoriafs Secret, and Bath and Body Works to phase out their use of PVC in their packaging!  We want to leverage these victories to build momentum for further commitments to safer products in the years to come.  We invite you to be part of this successful effort by being part of the campaign. 



Target Joins Wave of Other Retailers & Companies Moving Away from PVC, a Major Source of Exposure to Lead, Phthalates and Dioxins

After a national campaign by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) and a coalition of health and environmental organizations, Target has agreed to systematically reduce its use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, commonly known as vinyl.  The company is reducing PVC found in many of its owned brand products including infant products, childrenfs toys, shower curtains, packaging and fashion accessories.  PVC commonly contains toxic additives such as lead and phthalates and is often made in China.  

Target, the fifth largest U.S. retailer with $59 billion in revenues a year, is joining a growing list of dozens of companies including Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, and Apple that are eliminating or reducing its PVC products and packaging. Wal-Mart just reached its two-year deadline to eliminate PVC from the packaging of its private brand products.  

Recent reports indicate that the world stock of PVC in use contains 3.2 million tons of lead. Previous testing has detected lead in a broad range of PVC consumer products including toys, lunchboxes, baby bibs, jewelry, garden hoses, mini blinds, Christmas trees, and electronics.  In September, Clean Water Action Alliance of Massachusetts tested over 50 toys and found that one in five was contaminated with lead. Ten of the 11 leaded toys were made out of vinyl.  Wal-Mart has recalled PVC baby bibs and lunchboxes containing lead, and more recently Toys R Us recalled PVC baby bibs containing lead.  

Over ninety percent of phthalates, reproductive toxicants commonly found in childrenfs toys, are used in the manufacture of PVC.  Last month California joined the European Union and fourteen countries in banning the use of phthalates in childrenfs and infantfs products. Legislation to establish a national ban in the U.S. was just introduced in Congress and six other states including NY introduced similar bills over the past year. 

gSince millions of toxic toys were recalled, parents are now looking for safer products for their children. Companies should ensure that customers are not rolling the dice with their familiesf health in the check out aisle. Target is doing the right thing by moving away from PVC and switching to safer alternatives,h said Lois Gibbs, Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. Gibbs founded CHEJ after winning the nationfs first community relocation of 900 families due to a leaking toxic waste dump in Love Canal, New York. 

Over the course of the campaign, CHEJ and partner organizations held over 230 press conferences, protests, and flyering events at Target stores across the country. Two events featured a 25-foot rubber ducky outside stores in CA and NY. CHEJfs online humorous animated video gSam Sudsh was seen over 50,000 times in the first month it was released.  

On the day of Targetfs 2007 annual shareholder meeting, CHEJ ran an advertisement in USA Today calling on the company to gstop ducking the truth about the dangers of PVCh and organized a protest with Ohio Citizen Action outside of Targetfs shareholder meeting in Cleveland. Representatives of CHEJ, the Sierra Club, and Ohio Citizen Action attended the shareholder meeting, addressing the CEO and senior executives during the Q&A session. Petitions signed by over 10,000 Target customers were delivered to the CEO inside. To date, Target has been contacted by over 40,000 customers and concerned individuals about PVC.  
Targetfs mainstream investors have also expressed their concerns about PVC. A coalition of 16 institutional investors, coordinated by the As You Sow Foundation, sent Target a letter about the legal, financial, and reputational risks associated with their sale of PVC products and packaging. gWe congratulate Target for taking these important steps in reducing the use of PVCh, said Michael Passoff, associate director of As You Sow. gThese efforts will help protect both consumer health and shareholder value.

Among the health effects of phthalates, found in many PVC products, are premature birth delivery, early puberty in girls, impaired sperm quality and sperm damage in men, genital defects and reduced testosterone production in boys.   

gStudy after study have found that chemicals in vinyl can cause health problems in children and adults," said Dr. Peter Orris, Professor and Chief of Service at the University of Illinois Medical Center Chicago. "While using PVC products, people may be exposed toxic additives like phthalates and lead and when incinerated, PVC is a major contributor to dioxin.

The hazards of PVC are not limited to its use by consumers: it creates toxic pollution during its manufacture, harming workers and community members near PVC plants such as in Mossville, Louisiana.  When thrown away, toxic additives like lead and phthalates can leach into the ground and nearby drinking water sources. When burned in incinerators, PVC produces dioxins and furans, chemicals that can cause cancer and are considered to be among the most toxic environmental contaminants known to man.  PVC packaging can not be effectively recycled, and can contaminate an entire batch of 100,000 recyclable bottles.   

In October 2005, Wal-Mart announced plans to phase out PVC packaging in its private brands by October 2007. Wal-Mart also stopped selling PVC lunch boxes and baby bibs over concerns that those products may contain lead. The company also supports an industry-wide standard to remove PVC from all products intended for kids, and is exploring PVC free materials for its buildings. Wal-Mart stated in a 2007 press kit that, gmore and more studies show that PVC has toxins that can pose long-term health and environmental risks.

Target Corporation has approximately 1,500 stores in 47 states.   


The Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) is a national nonprofit organization that provides organizing and technical assistance to grassroots community organizations nationwide. CHEJ was founded in 1981 by grassroots leader Lois Gibbs and was instrumental in establishing some of the first national policies critical to protecting community health, such as the Superfund Program and Right-to-Know. CHEJfs PVC Consumer Campaign works with grassroots community, regional, statewide, and national environmental health and justice organizations from around the United States. The campaign is focused on preventing harm by shifting decision makers from producing, using and disposing of PVC consumer products and packaging and substituting it with materials that are safe for workers, communities, children and adults.

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Watch Videos of the PVC Campaign in Action!
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Watch CHEJ's Funny New Video about the Poison Plastic
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