A Big (Green) Apple? New York Lagging on Green Purchasing

Dioxin is one of the most toxic chemicals known to science. Banned by a United Nations treaty as one of the “Dirty Dozen” most harmful chemicals, it can cause serious health problems, including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and even diminished intelligence.

So it was good news in 2005 when New York City proposed green purchasing rules, including requiring the Mayor’s office to formulate rules “to reduce the city’s purchase or lease of materials whose combustion may lead to the formation of dioxin or dioxin-like compounds.”

What’s disappointing is that seven years later, and more than four years past the implementation deadline, the Mayor’s office has yet to put this important, health protective rule into effect.

In testimony last week to a New York City Council Committee, CEH Eastern States Director Ansje Miller highlighted one way the city should implement the purchasing rule: phasing out polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics in electronics and other PVC containing products. PVC is a major source of chlorinated dioxin, and when outdated electronics are discarded (and often burned), highly toxic dioxins are released, posing serious health and environmental threats.

Policies eliminating PVC in electronics and other products send a strong message to manufacturers. Leading businesses such as Wal-Mart, Target, HP, Apple and others have policies to reduce or phase out the purchase of PVC. Health care giants Kaiser Permanente, Catholic Healthcare West, and others invest billions in their IT systems, and have adopted the strongest environmental standards in the nation for electronics purchasing and management. Kaiser has specific criteria calling for avoiding PVC products, and recently announced it is converting its medical equipment, including IV-bags and tubing, to PVC-free products.

New York City has a chance to add its purchasing power to this movement for safer products. It’s time to stop stalling and implement the green purchasing law.