Volatile organic compounds of polyethylene vinyl acetate plastic are toxic to living organisms

J Toxicol Sci. 2014;39(5):795-802. doi: 10.2131/jts.39.795.


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic products readily evaporate; as a result, hazardous gases enter the ecosystem, and cause cancer in humans and other animals. Polyethylene vinyl acetate (PEVA) plastic has recently become a popular alternative to PVC since it is chlorine-free. In order to determine whether PEVA is harmful to humans, this research employed the freshwater oligochaete Lumbriculus variegatus as a model to compare their oxygen intakes while they were exposed to the original stock solutions of PEVA, PVC or distilled water at a different length of time for one day, four days or eight days. During the exposure periods, the oxygen intakes in both PEVA and PVC groups were much higher than in the distilled water group, indicating that VOCs in both PEVA and PVC were toxins that stressed L. variegatus. Furthermore, none of the worms fully recovered during the24-hr recovery period. Additionally, the L. variegatus did not clump together tightly after four or eight days' exposure to either of the two types of plastic solutions, which meant that both PEVA and PVC negatively affected the social behaviors of these blackworms. The LD50 tests also supported the observations above. For the first time, our results have shown that PEVA plastic has adverse effects on living organisms, and therefore it is not a safe alternative to PVC. Further studies should identify specific compounds causing the adverse effects, and determine whether toxic effect occurs in more complex organisms, especially humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogens / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Lethal Dose 50
  • Oligochaeta / drug effects*
  • Oligochaeta / metabolism*
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Polyvinyl Chloride / toxicity
  • Polyvinyls / adverse effects
  • Polyvinyls / toxicity*
  • Solutions
  • Time Factors
  • Toxicity Tests
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / adverse effects
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / toxicity*


  • Carcinogens
  • Polyvinyls
  • Solutions
  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • ethylenevinylacetate copolymer
  • Polyvinyl Chloride