BARBIE TESTS PVC-POSITIVE
BARBIE TESTS PVC-POSITIVE, VOWS TO SAVE OTHER DOLLS
FROM TOXIC FATE
For immediate release
Contact: Charlie Cray, Corporate Oversight and Public Safety, 312-235-5212 or Jackie Hunt
Christensen, Women's Environmental Network, 612-623-8269
After confronting Mattel customer service staff, "Cool Country Barbie" available
at McDonald's today confirmed what she had long suspected: she is PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
positive. Indeed, Mattel's customer service representative stated that all Barbies are
made of PVC. Upon hearing the news, Barbie vowed, "I will use my toxic fate to make
sure that future generations of Barbies and other toys will be made without chlorine! The
children who love me deserve toys that don't leave a toxic legacy for the planet."
Two of the chemicals involved in PVC production, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride
monomer, are hazardous in and of themselves, and create toxic by-products such as dioxin
when they are produced. In the process of making vinyl chloride monomer into polyvinyl
chloride for Barbies or thousands of other uses, more dioxin and other toxic by-products
are also likely to be produced. And because PVC contains so much chlorine, it can produce
dioxin when it is incinerated or accidentally burned. Many of PVC's additives and
stabilizers, such as lead, cadmium, and phthalates, are hazardous as well.
Dioxin has been linked to a host of health effects, including various cancers,
endometriosis, and problems with the body's hormone system which regulates sexual
Barbie said, "It all makes sense now -- my abnormal body proportions, the fact that
my feet won't stand flat. I'll bet it has something to do with the PVC. I hope that Mattel
will find a way to make future Barbies without chlorinated plastics so that they can have
normal bodies! And since in 1992, Mattel began a timetable to eliminate PVC from their
packaging, I'm sure they'll be willing to stop using PVC to make me. Also my friends at
McDonald's have stopped using polystyrene foam, so I'm sure their concern for the
environment will motivate them to encourage Mattel to change the materials used to produce
me and the rest of the Barbie family."
PVC use has grown rapidly since World War II, when it gained popularity as a rubber
substitute. It now accounts for 34 percent of chlorine usage and is used to produce a wide
variety of consumers items, including toys like Barbie. 
Dioxin formation has been found at various stages of the PVC "life cycle," from
the processing of ethylene dichloride (or 1,2-dichloroethane) into vinyl chloride monomer
 to disposal if the plastic is incinerated, as is especially common with medical waste.
PVC is 57% chlorine,  so there is ample opportunity for dioxin formation.
Recycling PVC is problematic, particularly because most PVC in commerce -- including
Barbie, is not labeled. PVC is a common contaminant in plastics _to_be_recycled_, and its
high chlorine levels may render polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or high-density
polyethylene (HDPE) unrecyclable. PVC that is labeled is designated by the number
Other than a message stating made for McDonald's by Mattel in China, Barbies contained in
"Happy Meals" are not labeled. When questioned by telephone about the Barbies
included in "Happy Meals," McDonald's customer service staff did not know what
Barbie is made of, but said she is not recyclable. On the other hand, Mattel, the makers
of Barbie, stated that she is made of PVC and recyclable -- although they did not provide
any information as to where she could be recycled. Mattel has shown awareness about PVC in
the past; their 1992 Annual Report states, "During 1992, dates were matched with
objectives, and a timetable now exists for the elimination of the substance PVC (polyvinyl
chloride) in packaging, the completion of environmental audits and the introduction of
more environmentally friendly product. Mattel is doing its part to be a responsible
corporate citizen, and to address children's concerns about the future." [P. 22.]
1 "Have Your PVC, and Dioxin Too," Joel Bleifuss, In These Times, March 6, 1995,
2 PVC: A Primary Contributor to the U.S. Dioxin Burden, Pat Costner, Greenpeace, February
1995, p. 1.
3 Plastics: How Structure Determines Properties, Dr. Geza Gruenwald, Carl Hanser Verlag:
New York, 1993, p. 101.