Yesterday, America's sixth largest retailer Target was handed a petition containing 10,000 signatures urging the company to stop selling products that use PVC plastic. Polyvinyl Chloride and the chemicals used to make it are thought by some to be linked to birth defects and cancers. The petition was delivered to the annual shareholders meeting held at the company's new store on Cleveland's west side. ideastream Health Reporter Lisa Ann Pinkerton has more.
On the street leading to the new Target store, it's lunchtime for little Winston Melzer. As he lounges from the hot sun in his shaded stroller, new dad Brad Melzer feeds him a bottle. Melzer and 30 other protesters want Target to stop stocking its shelves with products containing Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC. A biology professor at Lake Erie College, Melzer says he's read about the common plastic and it's possible toxicity to children.
Brad Melzer: To be honest I don't even know if this nipple has PVC in it. He could already be ingesting these things.
Nearby, Doctor Cynthia Bearer of Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital chats with a woman holding a protest sign reading "Way off Target with Toxic Toys." Bearer cites numerous studies about PVC exposure that have been published in medical journals.
Cynthia Bearer: The study by doctor Schwann was a very large population study. So it's hard to imagine given the numbers of people that were involved in it that her finding would be different in a different population.
Bearer's main concern is chemicals called Phalates, which help soften PVC plastic. The most common is known as DEHP. Bearer says the chemicals may leach from teething rings, shower curtains and packaging, and put young children at risk. These phalates are known endocrine disrupters. They interact with the Thyroid Hormone. And they can cause abnormalities in infants, she says - including reproductive deficiencies.
Cynthia Bearer: We can actually measure health effects, particularly in male infants in terms of their sexual development at the time of birth in their exposure to phalates.
Also among the group was Maureen Swanson of the Learning Disabilities Association of America. She says the development of children's brains can also be impaired by exposure to chemicals in PVC. She says even if science can't pinpoint right now why one in 6 children suffer learning disabilities, the burden on America's schools is growing.
Maureen Swanson: The percentage of school funding that has to go to help these kids who have learning and developmental disabilities, then that impacts the schools ability to fund other educational needs.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has advised against using DEHP in medical devices, and the Environmental Protection Agency has listed it as a probable carcinogen. But the government doesn't BAR it's use in any product.
Still, 53 companies, including Target's largest competitor Wal-Mart, have begun phasing out products that contain PVC. Target Spokeswoman Carolyn Brookter says her company does take the issue seriously.
Carolyn Brookter: We're talking to out buyers, we're talking to our venders and we're asking them to look into alternative that we have.
Brookter says Target has some options its working on but it's reluctant to set a timetable for phasing out PVC.
If Target doesn't move on the PVC issue, new dad Brad Melzer says he'll be left with a difficult shopping dilemma.
Brad Melzer: I don't like shopping at Wal-Mart at all. If Target continues its practices of not phasing out PVC, yeah, then defiantly I would choose one of their competitors, and if it had to be Wal-Mart, I guess it would have to be Wal-Mart.
However, at this point, Target Spokeswoman Brookter doesn't think the company will loose business on this single issue. Lisa Ann Pinkerton, 90.3.