Fun_People Archive
15 Sep
Barbie Update -- Toxic Doll Syndrome

Date: Fri, 15 Sep 95 02:57:41 -0700
From: Peter Langston <psl>
To: Fun_People
Subject: Barbie Update -- Toxic Doll Syndrome

Forwarded-by: (Keith Bostic)
Forwarded-by: "Jim Thompson" <jim@SmallWorks.COM>
Forwarded by Gareth Evans <>
Forwarded by John B <>


August 14, 1995 or 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

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


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.

Jackie Hunt Christensen
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
1313 5th St. SE, #303
Minneapolis, MN 55414 USA
phone: 612-379-5980
fax: 612-379-5982

[=] © 1995 Peter Langston []