Energy & Environment

Environmental group sues to declare ‘toxic time bomb’ PVC a hazardous waste

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) on Thursday announced a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an attempt to compel it to regulate polyvinyl chloride (PVC) as a hazardous waste.

In the lawsuit, the environmental group noted research linking the plastic to cancer and toxic contamination to humans and the environment. The compound is common in toys, building materials, packaging and electronic devices.

In addition to carcinogenic fumes associated with the compound, PVC has been linked to reproductive hazards, insulin resistance, liver damage and interference with brain development, according to the conservation group. Formally designating it hazardous waste, which Canadian regulators began doing in May, would require the agency to develop procedures for safely storing and disposing of it.

In its lawsuit, the CBD accused the EPA of disregarding a 2014 petition seeking to declare PVC a hazardous waste, which it called a violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

“Recent studies reveal that finished PVC products leach significant concentrations of these compounds into the environment as they deteriorate with age, threatening severe biological consequences,” the lawsuit states. “Substantial scientific evidence shows that the widespread mismanagement of discarded PVC has distributed toxic chemicals throughout our environment, threatening ecosystem health and endangering vulnerable portions of the human population.”

The CBD also noted the environmental justice implications of failing to regulate the compound. For example, Baton Rouge, La.’s Formosa Plastics Plant has emitted more than 1 million pounds of chemicals in the last 10 years. The same firm is now seeking to expand operations with a petrochemical plant in a predominantly Black St. James Parish neighborhood nicknamed “Cancer Alley.” The CBD is one of several groups currently suing to halt the facility’s construction.

“PVC is one of the most hazardous consumer products ever made, and the federal government can’t keep ignoring that reality,” Emily Jeffers, an attorney at the CBD, said in a statement. “This disturbingly widespread plastic sheds toxic chemicals that harm people and wildlife. We have to stop making so much plastic and come up with safer ways to dispose of our plastic pollution. PVC is a toxic time bomb.”

The Hill has reached out to the EPA for comment.

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