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A new approach: safer solutions

A new approach for protecting individuals and communities from the harmful effects of toxic chemicals and plastics is urgently needed. Governments and companies should adopt comprehensive safer chemicals policies to reduce and eliminate the production, use, and disposal of toxic chemicals like vinyl chloride and plastics like PVC and advance the use of safer chemicals and materials. To do this, there needs to be:

  • Full transparency and disclosure: disclose the presence, quantity, and hazards of chemicals and plastics produced and used throughout global supply chains.
  • A phase-out of the use and production of the most dangerous chemicals and plastics: chemicals and plastics made from chemicals that are persistent bioaccumulative toxic (PBT) or that can cause cancer and other serious health impacts must be phased out.
  • Investments in the safest chemicals and materials: ensure substitutes to the most hazardous chemicals and plastics are safer, using tools to assess chemical and material hazards such as GreenScreen(™) and ChemFORWARD.
  • Corporate accountability and environmental justice: hold polluters accountable for cleaning up contamination, restoring community health, and providing safe and clean jobs.

In the near term, urgent action is needed to reduce, eliminate, and safely substitute the most toxic plastics such as PVC. PVC plastics and chemicals produced at industrial plants are primarily used to make plastic building materials such as piping, siding, flooring, and other materials like single-use packaging and children’s toys.

These products are used and sold at major retailers like The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Lumber Liquidators, and Walmart. The Home Depot is the United States’ and the world’s largest home improvement chain that has a chemical strategy. The Home Depot already restricts vinyl chloride in carpets and rugs, is reducing PVC in packaging, and has banned phthalates in PVC flooring but has not set restrictions on most of the other PVC products it sells. Retailers like The Home Depot can help prevent another major vinyl chloride disaster and pollution by phasing out the sale of products and packaging containing PVC and transitioning to safer solutions, such as bio-based linoleum flooring.

Governments, from cities and states to the federal government, should adopt bans as well as environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP) and green building policies that phase out PVC building materials, packaging, and other PVC products in favor of known safer solutions. Other institutions like hospitals, schools, universities, and affordable housing developers should too.