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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 development.

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. [1]

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 [2] to disposal if the plastic is incinerated, as is especially common with medical waste. PVC is 57% chlorine, [3] 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 "3."

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, p. 12.
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.

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