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What Are the Dangers of PVC Racks in a Dishwasher?

Bryan Cohen

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is a thermoplastic polymer used in pipes, electric wires, ceiling tiles, clothing and in various electronic accessories. Certain additives to PVC like phthalates, vinyls and dioxins have been targeted by environmental organizations as being potential poisons that can affect the environment and human health. While many of these chemicals have been regulated and removed from PVC, older dishwashers with PVC may still have dangers.

Child Development

Washing dishes in a PVC dishwasher may have harmful side-effects.

Phthalates have been connected to several different issues in childhood development. These PVC-related chemicals can shorten the duration of a pregnancy and lead to the premature development of breasts in girls. When toxic chemicals are exposed to a woman with child, her fetus can receive brain damage and a lack of development. Since children breathe, eat and drink more than adults, they may take in more contaminants if they are coming from the PVC in your dishwasher, according to the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (Reference 1).


Some of the chemicals associated with PVC are known carcinogens or they are thought to be connected to cancer. Vinyl chloride is one of the key components of PVC and it is known to cause a rare form of liver cancer along with causing damage to the nervous system. The chemical is classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a known human carcinogen. Ethylene dichloride is another chemical released by PVC which may also damage the liver and the central nervous system. Dioxins can be formed when PVC is burned or melted and their highly toxic nature may cause cancer and damage the immune system.


A study conducted by the Swedish National Testing and Research Institute showed that the incidence of PVC and floor moisture increased the risk of asthma in children. Another study showed a connection between adult-onset asthma and PVC flooring. The connection between moisture, which is frequently the environment within a dishwasher, and PVC is disconcerting when it comes to child respiratory health. If your family has a history of respiratory ailments, it may be best to not use PVC in your dishwasher racks.

Mental Disabilities

Chemical contaminants like those in PVC pipes may be connected to learning and developmental disabilities in children. Dioxins, lead, mercury and phthalates can be connected to the incidence of autism. A study documented in the Neurotoxicology journal showed that PVC may be directly connected with autistic spectrum disorders in children 6-8 years old.