Frequently Asked Questions about PVC Roofing Systems: Part 6

Q: Haven’t California and most of Europe banned phthalates – and important PVC additive – from use in children’s toys and other articles? Isn’t this a sure sign that PVC isn’t safe?

A: The European and California bans on phthalates in children’s toys and related products are the unfortunate result of a sustained, 10-year scare campaign by activist groups dedicated to the elimination of all plastics and industrial chemicals. The basis of their argument lately is a small number of very recent studies that not only clash with more than 40 years of respected global academic and governmental science, but have offered no tangible proof that phthalates pose a danger to people of any age from any application. Phthalates have established a very strong safety profile over the 50 years in which they have been in general use. There is no reliable evidence that any phthalate, when used as intended, has ever caused a health problem for a human. Environmental research conducted by industry and others has led to scientific consensus on three key points. First, phthalates are not persistent; they are quickly biodegraded in water and soil. Second, bioaccumulation and biomagnifications are also not concerns; living organisms do not build up levels of phthalates over time, but break them down and eliminate them quickly. Third, the typical varieties of phthalates used in flexible single-ply roofing membranes (high molecular weight phthalates) are generally not soluble in water, and thus have a difficult time being bio-assimilated, as solubility is normally required for biological assimilation.

The safety of medical devices and toys made of flexible vinyl was affirmed in 1999 by a blue-ribbon panel convened by the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) and headed by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. Said Dr. Koop at the time:

“Consumers can be confident that vinyl toys and medical devices are safe. The panel’s findings confirm what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission have been saying about these products all along. There is no scientific evidence that they are harmful to children or adults.”

According to Dr. Patrick Moore of Greenspirit Strategies:

“The anti-phthalate activists are running a campaign of fear to implement their political agenda. This fear campaign merely distracts the public from real environmental threats … and the cost of taking “the path of least resistance” is replacing DINP (a phthalate) with chemicals that have not been as thoroughly tested and found as safe.”

Among the many other organizations that have studied and confirmed the human safety and minimal environmental impact of phthalates are: