Skip to main content

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

What are they?

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a solid plastic made from vinyl chloride. It is made softer and more flexible by the addition of phthalates, and can contain traces of bisphenol A (BPA)

PVC is used to make pipes, vinyl flooring and siding, hoses, cable coatings, medical devices, and plumbing and automotive parts. It is used to make upholstery, housewares, shower curtains, raincoats, toys, school supplies, food packaging, and shoes. 

See also: Factories Healthcare Services Homes Drinking Water Cancer

Where are Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) found?

  • Consumer products – a variety of plastic products for construction, medical, and home use
  • Children’s products – toys, lunchboxes, backpacks, and binders

How can I be exposed to Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)?

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) commonly enter(s) the body through:

Ingestion (swallowing)
  • Swallowing food or water contaminated with PVC, or food wrapped in PVC packaging or containers
Inhalation (breathing)
  • Breathing emissions from manufacturing or incinerating PVC, or landfills
Skin contact
  • Touching products made with PVC

What happens when I am exposed to Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)?

PVC contains chemicals that may have adverse health effects:

  • Exposure to PVC often includes exposure to phthalates and chlorine.
  • Manufacturing, burning, or landfilling PVC releases dioxins.
  • Phthalates, dioxins, and BPA are suspected to be endocrine disruptors.

Who is at risk for exposure to Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)?

  • Consumers
    • Plastic products for construction, medical, and home use contain PVC.
  • Children
    • Many plastic and vinyl products for children contain PVC.

Reduce your risk

If you think your health has been affected by exposure to PVC, contact your health care professional. 

Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling chemicals. For poisoning emergencies or questions about possible poisons, please contact your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

  • Does your home have PVC pipes, vinyl flooring, or other consumer products made with PVC?
  • Does your home have vinyl siding?
  • Are you building or renovating your home?
  • Do you eat foods packaged in shrink wrap or in plastic containers containing PVC?
  • Do you have a plastic swimming pool or plastic furniture?
  • Are you a patient in a hospital using medical devices made with PVC?
  • Do you use well water?
  • Choose glass containers over plastic containers that may contain PVC.
  • Avoid eating food stored or microwaved in PVC plastic wrap.
  • Choose PVC-free consumer items.
  • Keep indoor rooms well ventilated.
  • Routinely test your well water for PVC.
  • If your well water has high levels of PVC, contact your local or state health agency or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for information on how to reduce your exposure.
  • If your well water contains PVC levels above EPA’s drinking water advisory levels, consider using bottled water for drinking and cooking or install an activated carbon filtration system or reverse osmosis system.
  • When remodeling older homes, use proper ventilation and protective equipment to minimize exposure to PVC-containing materials.
  • Avoid plastic bottles, toys, or school supplies that may contain PVC. 
  • Don’t let children play in dirt near waste sites or factories.
National Library of Medicine Resources and Databases
Additional Resources
  • PVC - A Major Source of Phthalates (New Jersey Department of Human Services)

    Information on polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which has harmful effects on children's health, and examples of school supplies to avoid.

Back to top