ACI Opposes NYC Plan to Ban PVOHs

Contributed by BSM Staff

WASHINGTON -- The American Cleaning Institute, the trade association for the cleaning products supply chain, is opposed to a bill proposed in New York City to restrict the use of polyvinyl alcohol, (also known as PVA or PVOH), a water-soluble polymer used to make sustainable laundry and automatic dishwasher detergent packets.

In a statement, ACI said, “The innovation of water-soluble films and laundry detergent packets is a sustainability success story. They help consumers safely use, dose and store the products, making chores easier to do for everyone, including those with disabilities. They can be designed for cold water wash cycles, reducing the footprint associated with heating water.

“They are also compacted – delivering a better clean as well as reducing shipping costs and transport emissions. More than 50 years of published science, including extensive reviews by regulatory agencies from around the world—including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - have supported the environmental and human safety of PVA/PVOH (since the OH is the alcohol group when expressed in a chemical formula) for use in diverse industries.”

Local legislation – such as the proposal introduced in New York City attempting to regulate a chemistry used in products sold across the United States – is not only unnecessary, as PVOH use in cleaning products is regulated by EPA, but also would limit detergent manufacturers in creating significant sustainable solutions that are delivering positive environmental impact and progress in cleaning sustainability.

“ACI looks forward to providing the bill’s supporters with accurate information about the safety and biodegradability of this chemistry and the cleaning products that use it effectively.”
ACI also expressed disappointment with a campaign launched by the company Blueland to discredit polyvinyl alcohol use in detergents, despite decades of proof on safe use.

“Once again we are seeing a disappointing and disingenuous misinformation campaign launched against polyvinyl alcohol use in products like laundry packets and automatic dishwasher tabs. And as in the past, the campaigners – led by Blueland – are relying on shoddy science and intentional distortions about this,” said the ACI.

Liquid detergent packets (also known as capsules, pods or packs) and automatic dishwasher tablets are used safely and effectively in millions of households every single day. They have grown in popularity because they provide a convenient way to deliver the correct dose of detergent for maximum cleaning efficiency, as well as enable more sustainable innovation. Detergent packets contain highly concentrated cleaning formulas encased in a water-soluble film which is made of PVOH.

These films are designed to dissolve completely in washing and dishwashing machines and then flow down the drain with the wash water.

The films used in detergent packets, along with the ingredients they encapsulate, are safe to use in the home and meet rigorous, internationally approved test methods to ensure they fully dissolve and biodegrade after use.

New York City Council Member James F. Gennaro, chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection, Resiliency and Waterfronts, introduced the "Pods are Plastic" bill with support from Blueland and Beyond Plastics. The bill would make it unlawful for any person or entity to sell or distribute any laundry or dishwasher detergent pods and sheets containing polyvinyl alcohol (PVA). Any covered establishment in violation of this will be liable to pay a fine that increases per violation. If passed, the bill would be the first of its kind in the nation.

“We’ve been vocal about PVA for the past three years and are excited to see it getting the attention it deserves,” says Sarah Paiji Yoo, co-founder and CEO of Blueland. “Blueland was created with the intention to have an impact far beyond just the products we sell. As a company, we are committed to safeguarding the environment and consumers, which is why we are so excited to support New York City Council on the 'Pods are Plastic' bill.

The bill sends a powerful message to all businesses that products and profit should not come at the expense of the environment. With the help of City Council Members and our New York City community, we hope this bill serves as a bold step toward a cleaner, plastic-free future for our city and beyond.”

According to Blueland, in water, PVA breaks apart into tiny particles of plastics that persist and is not readily biodegradable. Further, PVA is one of the most ubiquitous wastewater pollutants in the US. Once released into the environment, PVA has the potential to absorb dangerous chemicals and contaminants, antibiotics, heavy metals and work its way back into the food chain, and has recently been found among other microplastics in drinking water and human breast milk, according to Blueland.

There are many different types of PVOH, as it can be modified to be more or less soluble depending on the desired performance required for its intended application. Water-soluble versions of PVOH have been used in an array of food products, tablets, medicines, eye drops and beauty products, as well as detergent packets, and have been found to be safe for human use.

The PVOH used in detergent products is accepted by the U.S. EPA Safer Choice program and other strict ecolabeling organizations around the world.

PVOH is listed on the EPA’s Safer Chemicals Ingredients List.

The campaigners’ previous claims attacking the safety and biodegradability of PVOH film used in detergents – in petitions filed with the EPA to restrict its use – were thoroughly rejected by EPA in 2023.

Now the latest line of attack claims that traces of the chemistry are found in breastmilk.

To support its claims regarding breastmilk, the campaigners cite a single Italian study in which ONE PVA particle was identified in ONE sample drawn from ONE patient among 34 samples evaluated.

The same study found microplastic particles of polyethylene, polypropylene, etc. in far greater abundance which also are the very plastics used for the spray trigger bottles used by companies such as Blueland.

The study did not identify or attempt to identify the source of the particle and says that “it is impossible to isolate a specific source.” (including possible inhalation from air or ingestion from food or medicine)

The identified particle by the study was brown in color, whereas PVA designed for detergent films is clear.

The study also did not effectively control for other more likely routes of ingestion, including PVA approved for safe use in medical and food applications specifically designed for human consumption, which include food additives, pill coatings, medical devices, invitro gels, salves, eye drops, contact lens solution, among many others.

In addition, PVOH film does not contribute to plastic or microplastic pollution, nor does it persist in the environment or contaminate recycling. The grade of PVOH used in laundry capsules is specifically designed to completely dissolve upon contact with the water in the wash and biodegrade after it goes down the drain.

The American Cleaning Institute (ACI – is the Home of the U.S. Cleaning Products Industry and represents the $60 billion U.S. cleaning product supply chain.

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