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I'm no chemist and I probably wouldn't understand any technical answer but...

I'm investigating the environmental impacts of various materials as compared to PVC and this is one that crops up regularly as a more environmental alternative.

Unfortunately there does not seem to be any authoritative information on the web concerning this material.

I'm beginning to think that this is a green-washing propaganda move by the phthalate/heavy metal free PVC industry as a move avoid mentioning PVC in product advertising.

Anyway I would welcome any information on what exactly PER is and what it is made from.

Thank you.

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PER is essentially PVC which has been plasticized and stabilized with acetyl tributyl citrate, instead of the host of phthalate-based plasticizers such as bis-diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) whose endocrine-disrupting properties give PVC its well-deserved bad reputation.

Citrate salts tend to be readily water soluble, and therefore this material is touted to be more biodegradeable than phthalate-plasticized PVC. I certainly cannot find any information to refute that claim. ATBC will further degrade into other acetates and butyrates, most of which are relatively common and harmless in the environment (though butyl compounds are infamously stinky; butyric acid is a favorite less-lethal offensive-odor weapon of law enforcement and groups like the Sea Shepherds). All PVC will eventually degrade as the plasticizer leaches out over time, unlike other types of plastics that are so ridiculously inert they'll likely be the fossils of our modern era, but again, the phthalates just aren't a great idea to have in the environment.

Of course, neither is the vinyl chloride monomer. What many proponents of PER fail to mention is that the monomer is worse for your health than the plasticizers. It's carcinogenic in relatively small doses, for one thing. It's also toxic to the liver in even smaller doses, measured in the low parts per million of body mass for an acute exposure. Lastly, the monomer is extremely flammable, though this is mainly an industrial hazard; the polymer is actually among the more flame-retardant commercial plastics, due to its chlorine content (in other words it's already highly oxidized, as opposed to something like polyethylene). None of this changes when the plasticizer does.

In short, while PER is a step forward, there are still plenty of inherent hazards in the production, long-term use and disposal of PER products. PER is also a relative specialty product, whose primary use is a foam product marketed for children's toys and yoga mats. It's not a silver bullet to replace PVC wholesale.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for you answer. So I was correct in this being a green-washing of a slightly less bad PVC? I would be interested in your opinion of Thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) as a PVC replacement. Would that require posting another question? $\endgroup$ – Martin Hurford Oct 30 '13 at 13:18
  • $\begingroup$ I would go ahead and post another quation on that. TPE isn't any one material, but a class of copolymers and polymer blends. ABS is a leading replacement for PVC in home plumbing as the trend against BPA-containing plastics continues. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Nov 1 '13 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ Not ot be confused with French PER which is Poly Ethylene Reticulated water pipe industry standard, because progress means that french people have plastic house pipes : PER est le sigle du polyéthylène réticulé haute densité (PEX pour les Anglo-Saxons). $\endgroup$ – com.prehensible Dec 3 '15 at 5:33
  • $\begingroup$ PVC is to my knowledge not giving off significants amounts of its monomer. Inappropriately burnt, it gives off PCDD's (polychlorinated dibenozdioxines). $\endgroup$ – Karl Feb 28 at 19:23

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