LVM's Environmental Action Blog

The purpose of this blog is to convey the importance that life choices and daily decisions have on the environment. I will, as a member of the kayaking community, effectively convey the importance and immediacy of environmental issues written in the paddling vernacular.

Monday, February 28, 2005

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.



References:
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

8 Comments:

  • At 7:07 PM, Anonymous will lyons said…

    That's some good stuff right there. One question though, do you have to enclose the kapok in some sort of plastic bladder or something or can it get wet?

     
  • At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is a especially biased blog posted by Mefford in effect being used as marketing tool /propaganda for a company trying to find a niche.

    Many of the statements presented are inncorrect. PE foam is by far the cheapest and typically most uncomfortable PFD foam on the market and widley found in the cheapo water-ski style products found at box stores.

    Phillip was not the first to use PVC (soft-gooey-soft feel foam)in 1990 as stated by Medford. This type of foam was being widely used by many manufactures in the early 70's.

    He is talking up their environmental cause to differentiate a company from existing manufactures while this only in affect represents two of the eight models offered by said company.

    I ask why the company continues to use PVC foam in 80% of the vests offered while proselytizing the virtues of PE foam.

    I totally support companies that that incorporate enviromental ethics into their bussiness plans.
    They have clearly incorpoarted this issue into their marketing

     
  • At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thought you would like some background on Kapok.

    Kapok began being used in 1904 in lifepreservers. 1861-1944 cork was main ingredient in life preservers. Kapok is used in more commonly cheaper commercial grade Type I and Type II orange lifevests.

    http://www.nysparks.com/boats/equip/pfd.shtml excerpt taken from website

    Checking Your PFD
    Many Type I and II PFDs consist of several kapok bags sewn into the device. Each bag must be airtight, otherwise water may seep into the bag causing the kapok to lose some or all of its buoyancy. You can test for leaks by squeezing the bags and listening for escaping air.

    http://www.boaterexam.com/training/waterrescue1.html excerpt taken from website

    Materials
    Kapok:
    Kapok, often used to manufacture life jackets and cushions, is contained in vinyl coverings which are easily punctured. Kapok deteriorates quickly and loses its buoyancy. Kapok can support 25 times its weight.

    Single-cell foam:
    Polyethylene and airex are two very common types of foam. Foam is a very long-lasting buoyant material.

    Maintenance
    Regularly check that life jackets or PFD's are still properly buoyant. The foam should not be too rigid. Kapok sacks must be light, soft to the touch and puncture-free.

    http://www.fishlakeerie.com/reports/wco-reports/3247.html excerpt taken from website
    If your PFD uses bags of kapok (a naturally buoyant material typically found in many orange vest type PFDs), gently squeeze the bag to check for air leaks. If it leaks, it should be thrown away. When kapok gets wet, it can get stiff or waterlogged and can lose some of its buoyancy.Don't forget to test each PFD at the start of each season. Remember, the law says your PFDs must be in good shape before you use your boat. Ones that are not in good shape should be cut up and thrown away.

    http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/es/enforcement/safety/pfd.htm excerpt taken from website.

    http://www.lakemartin.com/PFD.asp excerpt taken from website

    Checking Your PFD

    “Check your PFD often for rips, tears, and holes, and to see that seams, fabric straps, and hardware are okay. There should be no signs of waterlogging, mildew odor, or shrinkage of the buoyant materials.

    If your PFD uses bags of kapok (a naturally buoyant material), gently squeeze the bag to check for air leaks. If it leaks, it should be thrown away. When kapok gets wet, it can get stiff or waterlogged and can lose some of its buoyancy.

    Don't forget to test each PFD at the start of each season. Remember, the lay says your PFDs must be in good shape before you use your boat. Ones that are not in good shape should be cut up and thrown away.”

    http://www.seakayak.ws/kayak/kayak.nsf/NavigationList/NT00014AC6 Go to checking your PFD.

     
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