As much as we want to protect those around us, pools can be a hazard area. The noodles we use to let us float above the water can also be the thing to take us down. We will review PVC, the effects and some safer options.
Temperatures are rising, and chances are good you’ll soon be spending time by the pool. Going for a swim is a great way to cool off, but you should be careful about what you bring with you. Pool noodles and vinyl floats are popular toys, but some of them may be hiding an unpleasant secret: PVC. Is PVC toxic, and what implications does it have for the health of your family?
Read on to learn more about PVC, its effects and how to find safer alternatives for fun in the sun.
What is PVC?
PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride. It’s a form of plastic that has high levels of chloride. It has numerous applications and is used for pipes in the construction industry, IV bags and feeding tubes in the medical industry, as well as raincoats, shower curtains, toys, credit cards, and of course, some pool toys.
The issue with PVC is phthalates, or plasticizers. These are chemicals added to the plastic to make it more flexible and elastic. Unfortunately, phthalates can disrupt hormones and may have other negative effects on your health, including asthma, obesity, cancer and lower IQ, although the Centers for Disease Control acknowledges that additional research is needed to fully understand the effects of exposure to phthalates.
How are you exposed?
There are a number of ways people can be exposed to phthalates. Many materials made with PVC go through a process known as off-gassing. Ever notice a strong chemical smell after you buy and install a new vinyl shower curtain? That plastic-smelling scent is a sign of off-gassing. When fumes are present, some phthalate exposure can occur through inhalation.
It’s also possible to ingest phthalates by consuming food or beverages that have been in contact with the chemicals. Babies who chew on plastic toys that contain the chemicals are also at risk of exposure. Phthalates may even be absorbed through your skin.
While there is concern about the effects of PVC on human health, there’s also concern about its impact on the environment. The manufacturing process releases toxins, and these toxins can also leach into landfills.
High-risk pool toys: What to avoid
Generally speaking, traditional pool toys like vinyl floats, water wings and kickboards pose the greatest risk. A good rule of thumb is: if something is inflatable, it probably contains PVC and phthalates.
Heat encourages phthalates to migrate outside the plastic in these toys. So, if they are allowed to sit out in the summer sun, you may be increasing your risk of exposure.
Wondering how to tell for sure if one of your pool toys contain PVC? There’s an easy trick to use – the ubiquitous recycling triangle. If you see the number 3, “V,” or PVC inside the mark, you know what you’re dealing with.
Non-toxic pool toys: How to find safer alternatives
PVC and phthalates don’t have to put a damper on your summer fun. Fortunately, there are some safer alternatives on the market. If you want to avoid potential exposure to toxic chemicals, look for items made with ethylene vinyl acetate, or EVA.
Products made with EVA are flexible and include most pool noodles. Yes, your pool noodles are probably safe! Other products made with EVA include foam float belts and mats.
Styrofoam-like products made of EVA are probably not harmful if swallowed, but you should keep an eye out for choking in young children.
Of course, if you can’t find products made with EVA, you can buy used toys made with PVC. Because these have already off-gassed, they have a lower risk of exposure.
Use some extra caution
The effects of PVC and phthalates are not entirely understood, but with safer products on the market, it’s easy to make more informed purchases. Before you head off to the pool or beach this season, do a little research and think twice before you buy.
And while you have pools on the brain, it may be a good time to consider a pool warranty with American Home Shield.