Recently, I saw a young goth strolling down the street, and I wondered how the taste for PVC clothing might be affecting the health of this storied subculture. As a toxics campaigner, I am often asked about the safety of using PVC (Polyvinyl ...
Recently, I saw a young goth strolling down the street, and I wondered how the taste for PVC clothing might be affecting the health of this storied subculture. As a toxics campaigner, I am often asked about the safety of using PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) products around the home and in schools. A big problem with PVC is that it obtains that soft leather-like feel through the addition of plasticizers like phthalates, which off-gas over time and can penetrate human skin.
PVC on its own is brittle, which is why phthalates are added to the material. Phthalate plasticizers are enough of a concern that the federal government has banned them from children’s toys
. While they are no longer in rubber duckies
, phthalates remain common in many other products on the market, including car parts, clothing and cosmetics! Isn’t it strange to think that the same chemical that gives cars their “new” smell is also in makeup?
Not only can phthalates penetrate the skin, they are known hormone-disrupting chemicals. Phthalates have also been linked to cancer. Dibutyl Phthalate, or DBP
, which is a common ingredient in nail polish, is a known carcinogen that is also linked to genital abnormalities in infants and testicular cancer. The vapor also irritates the eyes and mucous membranes.
So how can you keep phthalates out of your body? Instead of a PVC jacket, choose a natural fabric. If you’re vegan or a vegetarian avoiding animal products, canvas is a functional alternative to PVC that won’t off-gas nasty chemicals. Goths may have to lose some of the shine that PVC provides to avoid phthalates, but at least many nail polish companies are going phthalate free. Paint your nails black with either a water-based formula, or one marked “three-free,” meaning no phthalates, formaldehyde or toluene is in the product.