The finding that ‘Elite Angling Products PVA’ is non-toxic is entirely compatible with its long history of safe use in a number of products. PVA (polyvinyl alcohol) is a type of ‘polymer’ or plastic. The names of many man-made polymers, such as Plexiglass, Teflon and Polythene, are familiar household terms.
Indeed, PVA polymers are used in the construction of many objects around us, from the clothing we wear to the building materials used in the houses we live in. Polymers are also found in nature. Plants and animals use natural polymers to do a variety of often intricate tasks.
For example, silkworms produce silk threads to build their cocoons, and spiders produce polymer filaments with a wide range of mechanical and structural properties to build their webs. In fact, polymers are everywhere, from natural materials like wood and silk, to synthetic plastics, fibres and gels. Even the starches in our diets are polymers.
The history of PVA
The first synthetic polymer (bakelite) was not made until 1905. However, recent technical advances have allowed ‘specialist’ polymers, like PVA, to be manufactured. With PVA it’s possible to tailor specific properties (such as high strength or solubility) to specific jobs. By varying the molecular structure during the manufacture process, a range of PVAs can be produced, each one subtly different from the others. Therefore different PVAs are used in a vast array of industrial, commercial and medical applications.
Familiar examples of how PVA is used include textiles (clothing), hair spray and fishing nets. However, its less well-known that PVA is also used for human consumption. In the pharmaceutical industry PVA film is used as a coating for tablets, capsules and dietary supplements. In medicine it has been tested and approved for use in preparations of eye drops. Water soluble PVA is even used as packaging material for hospital laundry bags. During the wash cycle the PVA laundry bags dissolve therefore allowing the laundry to be cleaned, but while the PVA is dry, the laundry bags (and any contaminants that they may contain) remain sealed and cannot infect hospital workers.
Such a wide range of uses (especially consumption by humans) is highly suggestive of PVA’s non-toxic status. Indeed, the published scientific literature provides extensive data to indicate that PVA is non-toxic when swallowed, even after repeated exposure. The Joint FAO/WHO Expert committee on food and additives evaluated PVA as recently as June 2003. In the USA, the Food and Drugs Administration allows PVA to be used in products that are in contact with food, and when manufactured in compliance with current good manufacturing practices, is designated as “Generally Recognized As Safe – GRAS”.
The long term affects of PVA in the environment are important to consider. Most man-made polymers are not biodegradable. However, there are a few (including PVA) that are biodegradable when dissolved in water. This means that when PVA is disposed, micro-organisms that commonly exist in nature break down the PVA to water and carbon dioxide. As many as 55 species of micro-organisms (including bacteria, yeasts and fungi) that are naturally present in water and soils are capable of breaking down PVA. Research has shown that in river water, PVAs take no more than 1 month to break down into their component parts.”