PO Box 88 ~ Glendale Springs, North Carolina 28629 ~ Phone (336) 982-2691 ~ Fax (336) 982-2954 ~ Email:


December 7, 2004

David Mickey (336) 769-0955
or (336) 769-9198


(Winston-Salem, NC) A new report released today by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) documents the health risks to people living near waste incinerators in North Carolina.  Citing as examples two medical waste incinerators, Stericycle in Haw River and BMWNC in Matthews, and the municipal solid waste incinerator WASTEC in New Hanover County, BREDL urged North Carolinians to learn about PVC, the "Poison Plastic", and take action to phase out its use.
BREDL joined the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) and other groups across the United States in releasing the report, "PVC, Bad News Comes in Threes:  The Poison Plastic, Health Hazards and the Looming Waste Crisis".  The report analyzes the health and environmental hazards during manufacturing, use and disposal, and provides detailed estimates of how much PVC (polyvinyl chloride) waste each state incinerates and landfills.

North Carolina's per capita share of PVC dumped in landfills puts the state 11th nationally for landfill disposal.  However, it is the presence of the two medical waste incinerators and the large municipal solid waste incinerator that raises the most concerns for the group's members.

According to the report, medical waste contains up to 15% PVC.  Such items as surgical gloves, IV bags, tubing and even office supplies are found in this part of the waste stream.  It's the concentration of PVC that alarms the League.  "When you take medical waste from every county in North Carolina plus waste from a dozen other states, and you bring it all to one facility, like the one in Haw River, then that neighborhood gets the emissions," said David Mickey, Solid Waste Coordinator for BREDL.

Major findings in the report's analysis of PVC incineration warned people about the hazards of burning waste.

More than 100 municipal waste incinerators in the U. S. burn 500 to 600 million pounds of PVC each year, forming highly toxic dioxins and releasing toxic additives to the air and in ash disposed of on land.

The incineration of medical waste, which has the highest PVC content of any waste stream, is being steadily replaced by cleaner non-burn technologies.

Open burning of solid waste, which contains PVC, is a major source of dioxin air emissions and dioxin-laden ash, as well as other dangerous pollutants.

Backyard burning of PVC-containing household trash is not regulated at the federal level and is poorly regulated by the states.

The North Carolina Open Burning Rule, adopted in 1971, bans backyard burning of all garbage, including PVC, statewide.  The maximum fine for serious violations is $10,000.  "Where garbage pick-up service is not available, people might be tempted to just burn their trash in the backyard.  This report points out the dangers from that practice.  PVC is a toxic plastic and burning it just makes it worse," notes Mickey.

"We know enough about the dangers of PVC to take precautionary action and phase it out," said Lois Gibbs who founded CHEJ and is well known as the housewife turned activist around Love Canal's toxic contamination in her hometown of Niagara Falls, NY.  "We need to tell corporations to protect our health and environment by switching to non-PVC materials.  Consumers need to know that bad news comes in three's-avoid buying PVC products which are marked with a "3" or "v" in the recycle symbol."

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice BE SAFE network kicked off a campaign to convince Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft to switch to available, safe non-PVC products and packaging as Bristol Meyers, Samsung and Nike have already done.  The two corporate targets are large users of PVC packaging such as Microsoft's blister packaging on software products and Johnson & Johnson's Kids Detangling Shampoo bottles.

"Some major medical device manufacturers are switching from using PVC to avoid direct patient exposure to phthalates, as well as the public and environmental health impacts of PVC throughout its life cycle," said Ted Schettler MD, MPH of the Science and Environmental Health Network.  "Companies realize that protecting the public health and the environment is the right thing to do and makes good business sense."

Mickey agrees it's the right thing to do but points out that until PVC is eliminated, communities that host incinerators need to understand the risk.  "People want to live in safe communities where they don't have to worry about toxics in the environment.  North Carolina recognizes that burning PVC trash in a  barrel in the backyard is not safe, but we need to make people aware of the larger risks from the 'Poison Plastic'.  This report does that."

The report was released today by its co-authors the Center for Health, Environment & Justice BE SAFE Campaign and the Environmental Health Strategy Center.