Agenda-driven activist groups like Environmental Working Group (EWG) know that misleading, fear-mongering content drives traffic -- and traffic drives donations. But while EWG claims to conduct “groundbreaking research” for the public good, their unfounded claims do a major disservice to those who want accurate information about the materials they use every day - information based on real scientific evidence, not clickbait blog posts.  

In the last few weeks, EWG  has put out a series of alarmist, inaccurate, and misleading posts about vinyl products. In each of these pieces, EWG has claimed, without question or substantiation, that vinyl products are harmful and should be avoided. But this approach of immediately sounding the alarm on certain products without explaining whether and what health risks actually exist lacks the scientific rigor to which EWG claims to aspire. We’ll be specific:

EWG claims that “vinyl materials” in buildings are released into the air as carcinogens when burned -- but it hides from readers that all materials can produce dioxin during fires.  All materials (organic and synthetic) emit dioxin when burned. When it comes to carcinogens, the enemy is fire, not vinyl.  

EWG puts on a tour de force of misdirection by claiming that you should avoid PVC and vinyl in products like shower curtains, children’s toys, and mattress covers -- but it provides no evidence to support these claims.

EWG does not offer one shred of evidence that PVC or vinyl in these applications pose any health risk. And it offers no explanation as to why the public should avoid PVC and vinyl; with the exception of a few vague allusions to “toxicity” for which it gives no evidence.

These products have been in the marketplace for years and are provably safe for their intended use. Here are just a few facts EWG concealed from readers:

  • Even the strictly regulated State of California has researched and now issued “safe use determinations” for plasticizers in roofing membranes, vinyl flooring and vinyl carpet tiles employing a variety of phthalates.

  • The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission banned phthalates in children’s toys a decade ago;  This is inaccurate.  The Commission’s rule makes the interim prohibition regarding DINP permanent and expands it to cover “all children’s toys and child care articles” containing concentrations of more than 0.1 percent of DINP.  But, the final rule removes the interim prohibition regarding DNOP and DIDP. CPSC has determined that these phthalates do not cause adverse effects on male reproductive development, and other risks attendant to their use are low.

  • The CPSC still allows the use of certain phthalates in toys. Despite this, most vinyl toys made and sold in the U.S. have not used phthalates since 2008.

  • As we’ve clarified multiple times, asbestos was voluntarily phased out of vinyl flooring back in the 1980s. It seems EWG would rather deceive readers and perpetuate falsehoods instead of delivering accurate facts about vinyl products.

EWG carefully side-steps these important facts because they don’t fit the group’s scare narrative. If EWG is willing to play this fast and loose with the truth, readers are right to wonder whether it can be trusted.

This is the kind of baseless fear-mongering that, disappointingly, characterizes EWG’s obsession with vinyl. EWG’s reckless disregard for the facts and journalistic standards of sourcing are surprising. Unfortunately, this is only the latest evidence of EWG anti-vinyl bias.