Invention could improve PVC safety and strengthen $1.8-billion industry worldwide

(Williamsburg, VA) Recently patented organic PVC stabilizers invented by William and Mary Chemistry Professor William Starnes can make one of the world's most valuable and widely used plastics safer and more versatile. The development could reinvigorate the $1.8-billion vinyl additives market that has been disrupted by claims of PVC's adverse environmental impacts.

The technology, which employs unique organic compounds called ester thiols as heat stabilizers in PVC, or poly(vinyl chloride), offers an equally effective and more environmentally friendly replacement for current stabilizers, many of which contain heavy metals. In fact, the compounds Starnes has invented are so compatible with the vinyl polymer that they also serve as plasticizers when used at high levels.

Their dual benefit as both stabilizers and plasticizers could make ester thiols a near perfect solution for certain problems associated with PVC, namely questions about safety. In recent years, PVC has been the subject of much criticism from environmental groups regarding the use of potentially toxic stabilizers and plasticizers. But Starnes' patented ester thiols are safe, and just as effective as their counterparts.

"The potential here is immense." Starnes said. "If people throughout the world can use PVC without some of the concerns now associated with it, then literally, we're talking about saving lives, particularly in countries with less-strictly enforced environmental laws."

Found in vinyl siding, plastic flooring, shower curtains, plastic blinds, credit cards, packaging, children's toys, car parts, water pipes and other building materials, PVC shows up in nearly every area of normal daily life. In applications that involve human contact, PVC requires non-toxic stabilizers, which currently are not as effective as their toxic, metal alternatives. But Starnes' technology changes that model.

"There's absolutely no question that the technology works," he s

Contact: Tim Jones
College of William and Mary

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