pvc Article for American Whitewater (references included)
Here are the first words of the movement going new school:
As far as eastern religions go, Jainism has not quite accomplished the worldwide familiarity of Buddhism, but parallels the teachings of the Buddha in origin and as a reaction to Hinduism. Jainism embraces all aspects of nature as possessing a spirit: all creatures great and small, even the life of flowers and seeds. As humans, our cognizance separates us and burdens our lives: with the ability of abstract perception we are responsible for limiting the inevitable suffering of all fellow earthly inhabitants. The penultimate reach of a Jainist can be to starve: naked and un-bathed (think of all the little creatures murdered by bathing) in full custodial commitment.
Now this may seem pretty far out there, especially for a whitewater magazine, but Jainism can send a perfectly clear message about responsibility. As lovers of and indulgers in the beauty of the river environment, we should be assuming an inherent responsibility. The new school frame of reference is about environmental protection and a custodial attitude towards our beloved rivers getting just as much attention as conservation and access.
As a springboard for our ideas: lvmenvironmental.blogspot.com is first on the scene: an easily accessible medium, drafting concepts for later magazine or video publication. Our goals are not to rant and rave, adopting the pedantic environmental activist attitude of shaming and blaming, but to provide the information and resources allowing the kayaking community to act as front-runners in an ever growing green movement.
So after that brief introduction, like it or not--straight to your face—our first big issue: PVC foam. PVC is short for polyvinyl chloride: the cheapest, most disposable, low-grade polymer, which nearly all of us have strapped to our backs on every kayaking venture. For approximately fifteen years, PVC has been used in personal flotation devices (PFD’s) because of the malleable, gooey-soft quality of this buoyant foam, which makes for ideal flotation on our kayaking torsos. There are some major issues with PVC however: First of all, the manufacturing process involves the use of heavy metals, chlorine, and the formation of dioxins and other persistent organic pollutants. When the foam decomposes these same toxic additives leach out, and their presence within the plastic foam prevents it from being recyclable.
Individuals exposed during production or to production effluents in the air and water surrounding vinyl chloride plants have increased risk of cancer, birth defects in their children, and a laundry list of other health hazards. Although effluent from the plants is regulated by state and federal standards that does not mean harmful affects are eliminated, especially from the air and waterways surrounding the plants. Here is our connection as boaters and our opportunity to make an impact: toxic effluent in our rivers, their products strapped to our backs.
Currently one company in the whitewater industry is actively leading the way, pursuing and producing an alternative; without naming names that means everyone else is using PVC. The boys and girls at Astral Buoyancy Company are utilizing polyethylene foam and kapok fibers to manufacture their more environmentally conscious PFD’s. Polyethylene foam is more durable and produces the same buoyancy as PVC with half the product. In addition, it lacks all the nasty production drawbacks as its counterpart. Polyethylene is stiffer and more difficult to manage, however, creating design and comfort issues. According to Astral head honcho Philip Curry, “The well documented environmental negatives of PVC far outweigh the difficulties inherent in using polyethylene.” Polyethylene is not perfect, but is much less harmful and is a step in the right direction. Astral’s other ingredient, kapok, is a natural fiber harvested from the seeds of the tropical kapok tree; the tapered-shape of the fibers carry seeds in the tropical winds and will help float your body on the river. In all new models for 2005, Astral Buoyancy will have phased-out the use of PVC entirely with a great reduction of PVC use in older models as well.
Although the kayaking community is not going to make a huge impression on the multi-billion dollar plastics industry, we can certainly send a clear message to all our PFD manufacturers: with an alternative readily available and plenty of negative evidence against PVC—we want something different, we want a better product—NO MORE PVC ON THE RIVER.
1. Interview: Philip Curry. Owner/ Operator Astral Buoyancy Company. 02-21-05
2. Integrating industrial ecology principles into a set of environmental sustainability indicators for technology assessment. Jo Dewulf and Herman Van Langenhove.
Research Group ENVOC (Environmental Organic Chemistry and Technology), Faculty of Agricultural and Applied Biological Sciences, Ghent University
Received 8 December 2003; accepted 2 September 2004
3. A study on the production of a new material from fly ash and polyethylene Cihan Alkan, Mustafa Arslan, Mehmet Cici, Mehmet Kaya and Mustafa Aksoy
Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Firat University, Elazi, Turkey
Department of Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Firat University, Elazi, Turkey. Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Firat University, Elazi, Turkey. 5 March 1994.
4. The Oil Daily, August 28, 1990 n9572 p5(1). Occidental takes the toluene entirely out of plant's PVC process. (Occidental Chemical Corp) Alan Kovski.
5. Chemical Week, Sept 22, 1993 v153 n10 p13(1)
PVC, chlorine makers urged to prepare for 'sea changes.' Elisabeth Kirschner.
6. Activist group urges phaseout of PVC. (United States/Americas)(Center for Health, Environment and Justice.)(Brief Article) Nancy Seewald.
7. Area logical choice for EPA toxic hunt. Mercury News: Pottstown, PA. Oct 05, 2003. Evan Brandt
8. Identification of organic compounds migrating from polyethylene pipelines into drinking water. D. Brocca, E. Arvin and H. Mosbæk. Environment and Resources (E&R), Technical University of Denmark, Building 115, DK-2800, Lyngby, Denmark