The European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) investigation found that some substances added to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, like plasticisers, may pose risks to people and the environment. To limit the use of these additives and to minimise releases of PVC microparticles, regulatory action would be necessary.
ECHA collected, as requested by the European Commission, information on the potential risks of PVC additives and PVC itself to human health and the environment. It also considered possible alternatives and assessed the societal impacts of potential risk management measures.
The investigation focused on 63 PVC additives, including plasticisers, heat stabilisers and flame retardants. The key findings suggest that regulatory action would be needed:
- to minimise risks associated with plasticisers, particularly ortho-phthalates, which are generally harmful to reproduction;
- to minimise risks from heat stabilising organotins, such as DOTE, which may cause developmental malformations and reproductive harm;
- to reduce emissions of flame retardants as suggested in ECHA’s Regulatory Strategy for Flame Retardants; and
- to implement and improve technologies that minimise PVC microparticle emissions especially at recycling facilities and landfills. The release of PVC microparticles contributes to plastic pollution. These microparticles also contain harmful additives, and therefore, minimising their releases would consequently reduce emissions of these additives.
The risks from PVC resin to workers and the environment are considered adequately controlled with the current operational conditions and companies’ safety measures. This conclusion followed an analysis of the materials used in making PVC resin, the production process, waste disposal and exposure to PVC dust.
ECHA’s investigation has now been sent to the European Commission, which will assess it and decide whether there is a need to formally ask ECHA to prepare a REACH restriction proposal.