Survey confirms food still sold packaged in PVC. Arnika introducing poster campaign about PVC's harmfulness

28.3.2008 - Prague

Association ARNIKA published today a list of foods packaged in PVC. More than 60 kinds of food wrapped in PVC were found during survey made in supermarkets in Děčín. This material is infamous as a substance which is hazardous in terms of its health and environmental impacts. That is why Arnika began today a poster campaign in municipal transport in Děčín to warn consumers against products in PVC. The main image of distributed posters is a duck made of PVC which contains hazardous chemicals in spite of its innocent appearance.

„The duck is not kind of a little angel, it´s made of PVC!“ says the first version of the poster series. „The campaign is going to demonstrate that the PVC is not only dangerous in toys or medical devices. Hazardous chemicals already appear within polyvinylchloride production, and its recycling is also very problematic (1). We also want to inform the public how to safely recognize PVC from other plastic materials – posters show symbols (2) helping to identify PVC packages,“ said Ing. Miroslava Jopková, head of the campaign „Don´t Play with PVC“. The poster campaign will last till May. Three different versions of posters with the duck will be placed in the local means of transportation.

Packaging of food in PVC carries big risks. „A number of studies (3) discovered that leakage of phthalates or adipates from PVC packages lead to food contamination. Some of these chemicals can harm the reproductive or immunity system. They´re hazardous mainly for little children and older people,“ Jopková said. „We have found different kinds of meat, butter, spreads, pastes and ice-creams packaged in PVC,“ added Kamil Repeš, one of those doing the survey and head of Arnika´s branch in Děčín. PVC package made of PVC can have various forms – often small boxes, pots, crucibles or plastic films. Labels are problematic too.

Arnika encountered another problem during the survey. Not all packages had information describing what kind of materials it was, especially in case of some kinds of cheese in plastic foils sold in Hypernova and TESCO. It is apparent not all producers give information about the packaging material so that consumers often don´t know what they are actually buying and also, how to separate the packages. „We are going to find out what materials exactly it is in case of some of unlabelled products, in order to warn the consumers eventually,“ Repeš said.

Liquidation of PVC packages contributes indirectly to food quality. „Liquidation of PVC on landfills or in waste incinerators leads to emissions of toxic chemicals such as heavy metals or dioxins (4) that can easily penetrate a food chain, and people are on the top of the food chain,“ Jopková explained. Because of presence of PVC the dioxins appear not only in incinerators but also during the burning of landfills (5).

Arnika´s activities in this project were supported by grant provided by Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and by the EEC Financial Mechanism and Norwegian Financial Mechanism by NROS (Foundation for Development of Civil Society) and by grant of the Prague City Hall.

(1) PVC itself is not separated. It causes problems when mixed with other plastic materials. For instance, PET bottles processing lines crush it and then separates different kinds of plastic materials form each other by dissolving. Polyethylen and polypropylen are lighter than PVC and can float while PVC, like other PET materials, sink down to the bottom and cannot be separated from each other. So, if PVC gets somehow (maybe by a form of package label) among PET, it depreciates valuable materials. Internet resources say that a single PVC bottle can depreciate 33-50 thousand PET bottles.

(2) PVC package is marked with a triangle recycling mark with number „3“ or letter „v“ and with writing „PVC“, „V“ or „vinyl“ under the triangle. The sign is imprinted on the bottom of plastic product or on a paper label.

(3)Castle L, Mercer AJ, Startin JR, Gilbert J. Migration from plasticized films into foods. 2. Migration of di-(2-ethylhexyl)adipate from PVC films used for retail food packaging. Food Addit Contam. 1987 Oct-Dec;4(4):399-406.
Goulas AE, Anifantaki KI, Kolioulis DG, Kontominas MG. Migration of di-(2-ethylhexylexyl)adipate plasticizer from food-grade polyvinyl chloride film into hard and soft cheeses. J Dairy Sci. 2000 Aug;83(8):1712-8.
Page BD, Lacroix GM. The occurrence of phthalate ester and di-2-ethylhexyl adipate plasticizers in Canadian packaging and food sampled in 1985-1989: a survey. Food Addit Contam. 1995 Jan-Feb;12(1):129-51.
Petersen JH, Lillemark L, Lund L. Migration from PVC cling films compared with their field of application. Food Addit Contam. 1997 May-Jun;14(4):345-53.
Saito I, Ueno E, Oshima H, Matsumoto H. Levels of phthalates and adipates in processed foods and migration of di-isononyl adipate from polyvinyl chloride film into foods. Shokuhin Eiseigaku Zasshi. 2002 Jun;43(3):185-9. Japanese.

(4) Dioxins – chemicals hazardous even in trace concentrations, appearing e.g. during incineration of waste with a content of chlorinated chemicals or as by-products in chemical production using chlorine (during production of pesticides, chlorine paper bleaching etc.). Their long-term exposure leads to damages of immunity and nerve system, change in endocrinal system (mainly of thyroid gland) and of reproductive functions. Some studies showed their impacts in a decrease of intelligence and concentration and on behavior (children' s hyperactivity).

Dioxin concentrations in emissions depending on the content of PVC in incinerated material

Content of PVC in incinerated material






Dioxin concentra-tions in emissions

Average ng I-TEQ/kg fuel





Range in ng I-TEQ/kg fuel

2 - 28

9 - 150

180 - 240

3500 - 6700

(5) Overview of fires on waste landfills in the region of Ústí nad Labem (which could have been accompanied by dioxin emission to atmosphere because of presence of PVC in waste):
14. - 15. 7. 2005 – fire of landfill in Tušimice
5. 2. 2006 and 14. - 24. 2. 2006 – repeated fire of municipal waste illegally imported from Germany in silos in Libčeves near town Louny, remains of ash were classified after analyses as a hazardous waste
9. - 11. 3. 2006 – fire of remains of foam and other plastic compartments serving as infilling for car stretchers on the area 30 x 40 m on the landfill in Tušimice
16. - 21. 4. 2006 – another fire of German municipal waste in Libčeves. Waste and ash were then partly transported back to Germany and partly at first to landfill run by company Celio near town Litvínov, from which it is going to be also removed to Germany.
12. - 22. 7. 2006 – landfill run by Celio burned repeatedly near Litvínov, region Most.


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