Greenpeace Canada issued a press release on November 27, 1998, making a complete false allegation which could have been answered for themselves in a few minutes with a simple search of the Internet



Municipalities across Canada urged to investigate

TORONTO - November 27, 1998 - Toxic substances found in the air downwind from Toronto area landfill sites are most likely caused by the dumping of PVC plastic (vinyl), according to Greenpeace, the Toronto Environmental Alliance, and City Councillor Jack Layton, Chair of Toronto's Environmental Task Force. The environmental organizations and Mr.. Layton are urging municipalities across Canada to investigate and take action after worrying levels of cancer-causing vinyl chloride were reported in a Ministry of Environment report obtained by the Globe and Mail.

Studies have shown that PVC provides between one-half and two-thirds of the chlorine present in municipal waste, making it the most probable source of a wide range of chlorine-containing gases emitted by landfills. Vinyl chloride is especially likely to originate from PVC because it is the basic chemical building block of the plastic. According to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, vinyl chloride is a known human carcinogen which causes liver cancer in people. In animals, it causes numerous kinds of cancer.

A recent study by the New York State Department of Health reported that women living near municipal landfills where gas is escaping have a four-fold increased chance of bladder cancer or leukemia. A 1995 study of families living near Montreal's Miron Quarry landfill also found an elevated incidence of several cancers and a 20% increased likelihood of low birth weight among those most heavily exposed to gases from the landfill.

"These findings are of great concern and I will be urging the Canadian Federation of Municipalities to investigate and consider restrictions on PVC," said Mr. Layton. The Federation's Environment Committee is meeting next week in Laval, Quebec.

"This news from Toronto is a wake-up call for Canada's mayors to get chlorine - and chlorine-based materials - out of our dumps ," said Lois Corbett, executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

PVC waste is notorious for its environmental problems. In incinerators, which Environment Canada lists as the largest emitters of deadly dioxin to the atmosphere, PVC is the dominant source of chlorine without which the dioxin cannot be produced, and each kilo of PVC incinerated generates between one and two kilos of secondary hazardous waste. In 1997 when PVC plastic waste burned at the Plastimet recycling plant in Hamilton, the site became contaminated with extraordinarily high concentrations of dioxin. A U.S. study has shown that nearly 200 times more virgin PVC was produced between 1990 and 1996 than was recycled, the worst recycling ratio of any common plastic.

The production of PVC plastic also involves highly toxic precursors and generates hazardous emissions and wastes. And because it often requires hazardous additives such as phthalate esters, lead and cadmium, to make it functional, use of PVC products can also pose risks to human health. This was the case in Health Canada's recent advisory to parents to discard soft PVC teethers and rattles for infants.

"These toxic landfill emissions show there is no acceptable way to deal with PVC waste - neither incineration, recycling or landfilling," said Greenpeace toxics specialist Dr. Matthew Bramley. "We've had mini-blinds, Plastimet, hazardous PVC children's products, and now landfill emissions. How many scandals does it take to get national action to restrict PVC?"

Greenpeace on the Internet at



We have repeatedly reacted on what we believed to be untruths and half truths from Greenpeace and others in general and on chlorine/PVC items in particular. Although our opinion will be said to be influenced by our background, as workers in the PVC-industry, we have tried to give our reactions to the best of our knowledge and as objectively as possible. We have no interest to fool ourselves by allowing unhealthy working practices or hurt our children by defending products that are dangerous for health and/or the environment.

We have reacted especially hard on what Greenpeace tells in their messages, because - contrary to what some other real environmentalists do - their messages are clearly intended to do damage to their target, no matter if that is true or false or worse or better for the environment or health.

Besides what they tell about soft vinyl toys, we now have a clear example of how they treat findings to hurt their target:
In the case of vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) escaping together with a lot of other gases and vapours (like methane, sulphur dioxide, benzene) from landfills, they immediately pointed to PVC, as that is (more than) 50% of all chlorinated waste in dumps.
This is their most stupid blunder since the Brent Spar case, where they had to admit that they made conclusions from sampling at the wrong place. Now again they are completely wrong. In no way PVC is decomposing back to VCM in deposits. It doesn't decompose at all [1]. To the contrary, it is used in many deposits to collect leachate and gases and protects underground and top soil [2]. It lasts for hundreds of years.

Since many years it is known that chlorinated solvents (per, tri), legally or illegally dumped in deposits [3], are decomposed by bacteria to VCM [4], [5]. The whole scientific community involved in waste knows that. If the Greenpeace "scientists" had done a little research, they could have known that too. But they probably were too hasty to have their headlines in the newspapers.

If you look at their message on deposits, you will see that it is nearly an exact replay of their message on PVC (as "half" the origin of chlorine) in waste incinerators as "dioxin precursor". That was as wrong as this time [6], but that costed much more time, research and lots of money, to prove [7]. And even now, a lot of people still believe that it is true and want to ban PVC mainly for that reason.

Greenpeace still has a chance to save some trustworthy, if they openly admit, to the same media, that they are wrong in the case of VCM from PVC in landfills. If they don't do that in a very short period, then we only can conclude that Greenpeace "science" is the worst form of nons(ci)ense.



[1] According to Dr. Michael Day, group leader with the National Research Council of Canada. A study conducted for the State of California, already in 1987, concluded that vinyl chloride comes from several commonly used solvents disposed of in the landfills and not from polyvinyl chloride.

Maybe Greenpeace can help this gentlemen, he still hasn't had an answer:
From the recycle list:

"Could you indicate me where I can get information on bacterias or other micro-organisms able to digest or decompose PVC (not vinyl-chloride monomer). Our previous searches in the literature or on the web have remained unsuccessful. Thanks a lot."
Institut Conception, Mecanique et Environnement - Fri, 3 Apr 1998.

[2] The new Stade de France, where the recent soccer world championship was held is built on a hazardous waste site, including PAH's. PVC pipes are used to collect gases and a vinyl sheet protects the upper layer, including the playing field, from the waste deposit.

[3] In earlier days, everything was dumped in landfills, including waste oils and all kinds of solvents. These and other organics are in part converted by bacteria to volatiles like VCM, benzene, ethylene, CO2, H2S, methane, and others, which can be found in the gases escaping from landfills, if not collected and burned.
No solvents should end in landfills nowadays, but you never know what people is throwing away in their waste bag...

[4] Among many others, from
Vinyl chloride (VC) is a common and highly carcinogenic groundwater contaminant usually associated with higher order chlorinated aliphatic hydrocarbons (CAHs) such as perchloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE), and dichloroethylene (DCE). Under anaerobic conditions, VC accumulates because the rate of formation of vinyl chloride from PCE and TCE is greater than its rate of degradation.

[5] A new strain of bacteria is found which does a break down of chlorinated alifatics to ethylene instead of VCM. This is used now in an experiment for in situ remediation of groundwater contamination with DCE in The Netherlands.

For those interested, there is the fifth "In Situ and On-Site Bioremediation" international symposium, April 19-22, 1999 in San Diego, California. Everything from solvents to explosives, metals, PAH's and PCB's/dioxins will be discussed.

[6] See RACHEL's Hazardous Waste News #45, describing experiments from Canada and Pittsfield, Mass., already in 1987, finding a link between fly ash metals and dioxins, but no link between PVC in waste and dioxins.

[7] See the summary of the ASME report on chlorine input and dioxin output of incinerators

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Created: December 13, 1998.

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