Greenpeace applauded General Motors on its announcement to eliminate polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or vinyl plastic, from its automobile interiors. The international environmental organization then called on the worldwide auto industry to follow GM’s lead.
“General Motor’s decision on PVC is a giant step in the right direction,” said Rick Hind of Greenpeace USA in a letter to GM CEO John F. Smith. “Now all auto manufacturers should take the initiative to protect people and the environment from deadly dioxin contamination.”
When PVC burns either in accidental car fires or during the car recycling process, dioxin can be released into the atmosphere and travel long distances, depositing on land and in water. Dioxin is among the most toxic synthetic substances known. In minute quantities, it can cause cancer, reproductive, developmental and immune system health problems.
PVC also is used in car undercoatings and in electrical wiring. Greenpeace called on GM to broaden its announcement to include the elimination of all sources of PVC in autos.
In the past year, the auto industry has begun to turn its back on PVC. Honda recently announced its intention to create a 100 percent recyclable auto by 2010, without PVC. Earlier this year, two of the world's largest automotive interiors suppliers, Lear and Delphi, announced plans to move away from PVC for instrument panel covers.
The recent mergers of U.S. and European auto companies may also be adding to the retreat from PVC. Daimler Benz, which recently merged with Chrysler, hasn’t used PVC for interiors or in undercoatings in Mercedes autos since 1995. The Swedish company Volvo, now a part of Ford, recently told Greenpeace it was reassessing its use of PVC.
“GM’s decision may represent a sea change away from obsolete PVC plastics toward safer materials—21st century materials—in all products,” added Hind.
The use of safer non-PVC plastics in auto interiors will help address urgent health questions regarding the many toxic additives used in soft PVC plastics. Phthalates, vinyl softeners, have been found to leach from a wide variety of PVC products including children’s toys and medical products.
Written by: Greenpeace USA
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