Many of you have switched to purses made of polyvinyl chlorate (PVC) rather than carry a leather handbag. Although PVC is an animal-free alternative to leather, it does contain petroleum and other toxic chemicals. While trying to save an animal you may have moved dangerous toxins into your homes — into your very closets.
The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) tested purses from 100 U.S. retail stores made of polyvinyl chlorate or PVC. PVC doesn’t require an animal’s skin but it is not an earth-friendly alternative.
Many of the purses contained shocking high levels of lead which is a known toxin linked to a host of health problems which includes cancer, infertility, and Alzheimer’s. The levels of lead found in some of the bags tested were 100 times higher than the “safe” level of lead set for children’s toys. These are the same handbags you carry every day and sit in your home and closet.
Some stores that have the lead-laden purses in their inventory have promised to screen and look for better standards of the products’ lead content. The other ingredients in these purses are far from safe even if PVC products don’t contain high levels of lead.
In addition to lead PVC includes ingredients such as: chlorine, petroleum, phthalates, and the carcinogen DEHP. These chemicals along with dioxin (linked with immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine system damage) are added during the production process. Another ingredient is VOCs which you may recognize as that “new car smell”. Symptoms associated with VOCs are headaches, fatigue, and nose and throat discomfort among other ailments. There are some reports that claim VOCs are suspected to cause cancer.
PVC is #3 plastic and it is not usually recyclable. Since it is not recycled it sits in landfills. If mixed in with recyclable plastics, it will contaminate the recyclable waste. PVC is a waste nightmare adding to the carbon footprint that just won’t go away anytime in the next 100 years or so.
After reading this you may be thinking leather would be a better option. The tanning process for leather is extremely toxic and can involve cyanide, arsenic, and other chemicals that have been linked to such problems as nervous disorders, asthma, skin and respiratory disorders. Tanning produces waste that is dumped into the environment and can poison waterways. One such example occurred in Woburn, Massachusetts. Residents saw a disturbing increase in the rate of childhood leukemia cases after a leather tannery was constructed in their area.
Many chose not to buy leather because of animal welfare issues. Although some leather is a by-product of the meat industry, not all leather used in the United States comes from the meat industry. This is a common misconception. A percentage of hides used in the US are imported from other countries such as India. Importation of hides causes even more petroleum to be used moving them around the world.
There are some earth-friendlier options are available. Items made with polyurethane (PU) are leather look-alikes and considered safe. Other eco-friendly materials are organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo. Look for items made from recycled materials. Matt and Nat make stylish, non-leather bags that are made from recycled bottles. Olsen Haus and Cri de Coeur make very eco-friendly, upscale shoes that are very chic. If you’re looking for more casual eco-footwear check out Autonomie Project’s Ethletic shoes. These are vegan and made from organic cotton, certified sweatshop-free.
It is very important to do what we can to make our lives and our planet healthier and greener. Do your homework and find ways to remove as many toxins as you can from your life. Everyone can play a part to kick our oil addiction.