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Report: Beware of 'Poison Plastic'

Dec 8, 2004 | The Daily Item An environmental health advocacy group Tuesday released a national report on the hazards posed by incinerators that burn PVC, the plasticmaterial commonly used in plumbing pipes and packaging.

Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow asserted that PVC is a "poison plastic" and that Massachusetts incinerates a higher percentage of it than all but two other states.

Cindy Luppi, a spokesman for Clean Water Action, another advocacy group, said the report is especially alarming for Greater Lynn residents because of the proximity of the RESCO trash incinerator on Route 107 in Saugus.

"RESCO burns about 15 percent of all solid waste in Massachusetts," she said, noting that PVC is often contained in that waste stream.

Disposing of PVC in incinerators and landfills poses long-term problems caused by the emission of highly-toxic dioxin gasses and leaching of toxic additives such as cadmium and lead into groundwater, Luppi said.

Communities are increasingly concerned about the PVC content, considering Massachusetts is home to seven operating incinerators.

"The Saugus facility burns over 1,500 tons of trash per day," said Luppi, adding that the pollutants that don't escape the smokestack are captured and concentrated in the incinerator ash, which is later buried in a local landfill.

"Saugus and neighboring communities deserve relief from this toxic cocktail of pollution caused by the incineration of PVC products," said Fae Saulenas, co-president of SAVE (Saugus Action Volunteers for the Environment), an advocacy group.

"Dioxin causes cancer, and harms our reproductive and immune systems - we must stop its build-up in the food we eat and in our water supplies."

PVC is widely used in plastic pipes, in building materials such as vinyl siding, in consumer products like toys and tablecloths, and in disposable packaging. PVC disposal is the largest source of dioxin-forming chlorine and hazardous phthalates in solid waste, as well as major source of lead, and cadmium, according to the national report, "PVC, Bad News Come in Threes: The Poison Plastic, Health Hazards, and the Looming Waste Crisis."

Each year, Massachusetts burns more than 28,145 tons of PVC.

The report concludes that billions of pounds of PVC are being thrown away in the U.S.but there is no 'away' as the plastic waste poses perpetual hazards."Burn PVC waste in incinerators as Massachusetts does in high volume and it changes to cancer-causing dioxin," said Luppi."Bury it in landfills and it pollutes groundwater. Recycle PVC products and they contaminate the recycling process."

A growing number of corporations are phasing out PVC, including Nike, Samsung, and Firestone, according to the report.A bill in the state Legislature advocating a switch to "safer alternatives" has been filed.

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