PHIL

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DIOXIN EMISSIONS OF MATERIALS

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FAIRY-TALE

Throughout its lifecycle, PVC results in more dioxin formation than any other single product.

Greenpeace report 'Achieving Zero Dioxin' - July 1994 [1].

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FACTS AND FIGURES

The story of Greenpeace

Greenpeace has made a lot of stories to 'prove' that PVC is the largest single source of dioxins on earth.
By miscalculations, the deliberate confusion between formation and emission of dioxins, the suggestive way they present figures from not comparable laboratory experiments, while they know the real emissions and by omitting the enormous evidence found in literature which proves the contrary of what they are telling.


Parts of this page

Dioxins emitted by different materials
Dioxin content of materials
A comparison of window frame materials and dioxins

THE ALTERNATIVES
Conclusion

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Dioxins emitted by different materials

Based on the Governmental investigation of dioxin sources in The Netherlands by RIVM/TNO [3], we can calculate how much dioxins are released during production, recycling and incineration of different materials.
These figures are only informative, because a lot of materials, except PVC, are not measured for dioxin emissions by energy production and/or production process and/or recycling and/or incineration.

Measured emissions to air of different materials during lifetime.
All figures expressed in microgram I-TEQ per ton material

Productproductionrecyclingfireincinerationinciner.
minmaxminmaxminmaxminmax1997
PVC: 0.1   0.0   4.07.0277<1
PE: ?   0.0 ?7.0277<1
glass:0.38.7 ?   0.0   0 
steel:1.38.44.4  6.0   0.0   0 
aluminium: ?1.7 35    0.0   0 
copper: ?5.02280     0.0   0 
wood:1.04.1----13135  7.0277<1
paper:  00.2   14 (*) ?7.0277<1
Sources: RIVM/TNO inventory of dioxin sources in The Netherlands, 1991 [3].
(*) Ubiquitous Nature of Dioxins [7].

As you can see, any production, recycling, (incidental) fire or incineration gives dioxins, PVC not more than other materials. From a lot of other materials, the amount of dioxins emitted in certain circumstances is not even measured. Why should you exchange PVC for alternatives to prevent dioxin emissions? The amount of dioxins, emitted by incinerators is completely depending on the quality of the incinerator, not on the amount of chlorine at the input. See Chlorine input and dioxin emissions. If all incinerators will fulfill the European law (stack gases below 0.1 ng/m3 I-TEQ), then the amount of dioxins emitted per ton will be below 1 microgram per ton incinerated.


Dioxin content of materials

PVC and other chlorinated materials are accused to contain dioxins. In fact that was so for relatively important amounts in chlorinated phenols and related chemicals, but nowadays the formation of dioxins is prevented, or they are removed, before the products are coming on the market. In other chlorinated products, no detectable amounts of dioxin are found when the product leaves the factory.
Recent investigations in the US and Europe, where lots of musters of fresh PVC-powder were tested, confirms this. But with dust containing dioxins flowing everywhere, the dioxin content of any product augments with time. This is the case for all plastics and for paper. This is also the case for dry cleaning: the solvent contains much more dioxins after use, from all dust washed out of the clothes. General dust may also be the reason that recycled cardboard and paper contains much more dioxin than fresh paper, even if unbleached or 'chlorine-free' fibres were used. Or maybe it is the influence of moulds?
Next table will give you an impression of amounts of dioxin in several materials and processes:

Dioxin found in different materials. All figures as microgram I-TEQ/ton.

Materialminimumaveragemaximum
Different kinds of paper:
Recycled linerboard (chlorine free): 2.5  
Totally chlorine free (TCF) Kraftpaper: 0.35 
Deinked recyclepulp (newsprint): 0.19 
Fresh newsprint: 0.07 
Unbleached Kraft: 0.02 
Bleached Kraft (ECF): 0.01 
Other materials:
House furnace filter dust: 170     
Car air-filter: 84    
Room air-filter:27   29  
Vacuum cleaner dust:8.3 12  
Clothes dryer lint:2.4  6.0
Polyethylene packaging:0.1  4.7
Source: Ubiquitous nature of dioxins [7].

Comment: As you can see, there are no chlorine-free or dioxin-free materials. And 'totally chlorine free paper' not only doesn't exist, it contains at least 35 times more dioxin than paper, made by modern chlorine/chlorinedioxyde bleaching. See also Chlorine and paper bleaching.


A comparison of window frame materials and dioxins

The German PVC producer Vinnolit has made a comparison, based on real dioxin measurements, of the emissions from the whole lifetime of windowframes. The figures are for Germany (the real measurements in The Netherlands for PVC and wood are even more in favour of PVC!):

Dioxin emissions from the production processes and (partly) incineration of disposed windowframes.
All figures in ng I-TEQ dioxin per windowframe:

Materialdioxin emissions
productionincinerationtotal
PVC (15 kg):18422
Steel (10 kg):30 30
PVC + steel:48452
Wood (17 kg):4720 67
Aluminium (19 kg):285  285 
Large PVC windowframes are reinforced with steel.
The figures are including the recycling rates in Germany at this moment.

Dioxin emissions from the energy production
All figures in MJ for energy and ng I-TEQ dioxin per windowframe:

Materialenergy usedioxin emission
PVC incl. steel:9100.02-4.2
Wood:8200.02-3.8
Aluminium:2090 0.04-9.5

The amount of dioxins, emitted by energy production strongly depends of the energy source used. There are also very broad differences due to the quality of the firing for producing energy.

Accidental fires:

The only quantitative measurement of dioxin emissions from a PVC warehouse fire gives, calculated for one windowframe ca. 65 ng of dioxins. Measurements on wood fires are also in the same order of magnitude. Because less than one house on one thousand will catch fire, this is in both cases neglible.

Source: "Schadstoffbilanzen - eine Quelle von Überaschungen!" (German: A balance of toxics, a source of surprices!) [11].

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THE ALTERNATIVES

All alternatives for PVC, give also dioxins during production, transport, recycling and/or incineration. In many cases, they give more dioxin releases than the production, transport, use, recycling, incineration and accidental fires of PVC, if the quality of incineration is within the European legal limits (stack gases below 0.1 ng/m3 I-TEQ, or less than 1 microgram/ton incinerated).


CONCLUSION

There is no reason to blame PVC as THE dioxin source, because it contains chlorine. And there is no reason at all to exchange PVC for alternatives to reduce dioxin emissions.

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You are at level two of the Chlorophiles pages.

Created: April 8, 1996.
Last update: September 28, 1999.

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