Here at CAGW, we try and direct fellow crafters to materials to use that are gentler on the environment for craft projects. From fabric and yarns to scissors and notions there is a plethora of options out there for the eco-conscious crafter.
Well, I am going to add waterproof, clear, flexible, “fabric” to that list. Many crafters use this in their projects for many purposes. Unfortunately, this “fabric” is vinyl or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a type of plastic (number 3 to be exact) and I am calling for an outright ban on this poison plastic.
Vinyl is a very common material and is found in clothes, pipe, luggage, flooring, shower curtains, mouse pads, and the list goes on and on. At the craft store it comes in clear “fabric”, like a shower curtain, or in many opaque fabric colors, like that found on a booth in a diner, as well as many bright prints. It is also found in table cloths that crafters like to repurpose into bags, aprons and bibs. Many vegan crafters use it as an alternative to leather.
During its manufacturing, use and disposal, vinyl emits a toxic substance known as dioxin. Dioxin is well known as an environmental pollutant and toxic chemical. It is easily absorbed by the body and stored in fatty tissue. In the environment, it slowly accumulates in the food chain, and is found in the most concentrated amounts the higher up the food chain.
The scary part is that dioxin is known to effect several systems of the body including the immune system and the reproductive system, among others. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it has been known to cause cancer in animals and it is classified as a “known human carcinogen.” Because of this, the WHO recommends limiting exposure to dioxin.
Another reason to ditch vinyl is an equally horrible toxin that it emits during use; phthalates. This other toxic substance is an additive in PVC and suspected of being a carcinogen, which like dioxin effects the reproductive system, according to the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. You can usually tell vinyl from its smell, like a shower curtain. This is due to the toxic chemicals “off-gassing,” which vinyl does throughout its life-cycle.
Now I’m not pointing fingers, but vinyl is strongly intrenched in the crafting community. It is an economical, easy to use and a waterproof material, so it is easy to understand why. But its use needs to stop. Companies such as Microsoft, Sears, K-Mart and Target have all started to phase out PVC in one form or another; however big box craft stores have yet to take similar steps.
So what are us crafters to do? Well first off, just stop using it. I know it can be hard to go cold turkey, but an all out ban on the substance is what is needed and a viable alternative is our demand. The next time you are at your craft store, pipe up. Ask for PVC-free alternatives and if they don’t have them, make a point to let a manager know that their customers are demanding it.
Next week I’ll share a list of potential alternatives to vinyl, so stay tuned.