Protesters Target Pvc

  • Activists want Target to stop carrying PVC plastic products because of potential links with toxins. (photo by Lester Graham)

Polyvinyl chloride and the chemicals used to make it are thought to be
linked to birth defects and cancers. So activists are urging companies
to stop using the plastic. America’s 6th largest retailer Target was
recently handed 10,000 signatures at its annual shareholders
meeting. The petition urges the company to phase out the use of PVC
plastic in the products it sells. Lisa Ann Pinkerton reports:


Polyvinyl chloride and the chemicals used
to make it are thought by some to be linked to
birth defects and cancers. The petition was
delivered to the annual shareholders meeting.
Lisa Ann Pinkerton has more:

In white hazmat suits and dust masks, about 30 protesters chant on the street in front of the new Target store.
It’s the site of this year’s shareholder meeting
and one of those protesters is Brad Melzer, a biology professor at Lake Erie
College in Ohio. But Melzer’s not shaking a protest sign right now. Instead, he’s trying to keep his infant
son shaded and cool in the noon-day sun. As little Winston lounges in a stroller, sucking on a bottle, Melzer says he’s
here today because he’s read about PVC plastic and its possible toxicity to

“To be honest, I don’t even know if this nipple has PVC in it. He could already be
ingesting these things.”

Protests like this one are happening simultaneously in 200 locations across the country,
but in Cleveland, protesters have turned in a petition with 10,000 signatures urging Target
to stop stocking its shelvesproducts containing polyvinyl chloride, or PVC.

Not too far away from the Melzers, is Doctor Cynthia Bearer of Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, and she chats with a
woman holding a protest sign reading “Way off Target with Toxic Toys.”

Bearer’s main concern is chemicals called pthalates, which help soften PVC plastic. The
most common is known as DEHP. Bearer says the chemicals may leach from teething
rings, shower curtains and packaging, and put young children at risk:

“Pthalates are known to be endocrine disrupters. They interact with the thyroid

And they can cause abnormalities in infants, she says, including reproductive

“So we can actually measure health effects, particularly on male infants in terms of their
sexual development at the time of birth from exposure to pthalates.”

Like Dr. Bearer and Brad Melzer, some of the protesters are science professionals.
Some are just concerned parents and others are advocates for children. Maureen Swanson is with the Learning Disabilities Association of America. She says the development of children’s brains might be impaired by exposure
to chemicals in PVC. She says even if science can’t pinpoint right now why 1 in 6
children suffer from learning disabilities, something needs to be done. She says the burden on America’s schools is growing:

“The percentage of school funding that has to go to help these kids who have learning
and developmental disabilities, then that impacts the school’s ability to fund other
educational needs.”

Some precautions have been made to reduce exposure to some of the PVC-related chemicals.
The US Food and Drug Administration has advised against using DEHP in medical
devices, and the Environmental Protection Agency has listed it as a probable carcinogen,
but the government doesn’t bar the use of DEHP in any product.

Even without the ban on the chemicals, 53 companies, including Target’s largest competitor, Wal-Mart, have begun phasing
out the products that contain PVC. Target Spokeswoman Carolyn Brookter says her company has some options it’s working on,
but it’s reluctant to set a time table for phasing out PVC. But she says that doesn’t mean that Target isn’t taking the
issue seriously:

“We’re talking to out buyers, we’re talking to our venders and we’re asking them to look
into some alternatives that we have.”

If Target doesn’t move on the PVC issue, new dad Brian Melzer
says he’ll be left with a difficult shopping dilemma:

“I don’t like shopping at Wal-Mart at all. But… if Target continues its practices of not phasing
out PVCs. Yeah, then definitely I would choose one of their competitors, and if it had to
be Wal-Mart, I guess it would have to be Wal-Mart.”

However, at this point, Target Spokeswoman Brookter doesn’t think the company will
lose business on this single issue.

For the Environment Report, I’m Lisa Ann Pinkerton.

Related Links

Maggots: Reviving an Ancient Medical Treatment

  • Maggots can be used as a medical treatment. Specifically, to help treat wounds. (Courtesy of the National Institutes of Health)

An ancient medical treatment is starting to be used again to treat wounds. But for many people, just the thought of the treatment is stomach-turning. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Melissa Ingells has the story:


An ancient medical treatment is starting to be used again to treat wounds,
but for many people, just the thought of the treatment is stomach turning.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Melissa Ingells has the story:

Ray Peterson has already lost one leg to diabetes. On his remaining foot
there’s a deep wound, and it’s not healing. It’s not getting better because
of the diabetes. He could lose his second leg.

His doctor is taking the dressing off Peterson’s wound. The wound…is
ugly. It looks like someone drilled a quarter-sized hole deep into
Peterson’s foot. The wound smells bad, and then the doctor finds
maggots. The blowfly larvae are squirming around in there. The doctor
is not surprised, though. He put the maggots there a few days ago. It’s
part of the treatment to save Ray Peterson’s leg.

They’re not exactly the kind of maggots you’d find in your garbage can,
but they’re similar. Last summer the FDA approved maggots as medical

The maggots eat the dead tissue, not the live flesh. In a process
researchers don’t completely understand… the maggots actually clean
and disinfect the wound much better than a surgeon could. Apparently,
they’re attracted to the bacteria in the dead tissue.

Ray Peterson is in his doctor’s office, trading in some big, full maggots
for some new hungry ones.

The old, fat maggots are washed off with saline. The doctor has to dig around
with the tweezers to get a few strays out.

Ray Peterson says he doesn’t mind seeing the process.

“I enjoy watching them, truthfully.”

The doctor cleans the wound a bit more and then places tiny, new maggots on
it with a small spatula.

(Sound of office)

There are plenty of maggot jokes as Dr. Dowling and the nurses work on
Peterson’s foot. Dowling says that his staff has become comfortable with
the maggots, but many health care professionals are not.

“Actually the patients react much better than the doctors. Every patient
I’ve done it on has been very excited and enthusiastic. I can’t say that’s
always the case for the medical community at large. I’ve had some
doctors tell patients if you have maggots on your foot, don’t come in my
office, but I think that will go away with time the more it’s accepted.

The new maggots start moving around as soon as they feel warmth and smell
food. Dr. Dowling and his nurses quickly contain them with a bandage.

“We build a cage around the wound to hold the maggots in, we’ll put the
maggots in, cover up the cage, and leave it there for two to three days,
and during that time the maggots will increase in size two to three times.
And then, when they come in we’ll take the cage off and wash the maggots out
with saline solution, and look at the wound and decide if it needs another
application or not.”

Several clinical studies have been conducted on the maggot treatment.
The results have been overwhelmingly good, but because the idea is so
repulsive to many patients or their doctors, the practice is still not

Robert Root Bernstein is a professor of physiology at Michigan State
University. He co-wrote the book “Honey, Mud, Maggots and other Medical Marvels.”

“Taking a maggot or a bunch of maggots and putting them in a wound and watching
them crawl around in there is not something that most people find appealing, and
usually okay for the patient – the patient doesn’t actually have to look. It’s the
practitioners who have to deal with these squirmy little things and have to put
them in and take them out who seem to have most of the problem with the therapy.”

Root Bernstein says maggot therapy might catch on. That’s because doctors are seeing
more and more diabetic wounds as the rate of diabetes keeps going up in the U.S.
When medicines such as antibiotics don’t work on the stubborn wounds,
patients and doctors sometimes turn to the maggot therapy as their last hope for

Ray Peterson found out about maggot therapy when his daughter saw an
article in a local newspaper. He says at first his friends were a little put
off, but then started kidding him about the procedure.

“They call me maggot man. Just for a joke. I go along with them. You’re a pretty
good sport about this. You gotta be.”

And Peterson says the good-natured ribbing is sure a lot better than the
alternative. Peterson also thinks if people can get past the “ick” factor…
more people’s limbs might be saved by maggot therapy.

For the GLRC, I’m Melissa Ingells.

Related Links

Controversy Over Re-Using Medical Devices

Health care providers are struggling with ways to reduce the cost
of medical care. But one money-saving tactic is raising concerns about
patient safety. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy Nelson