The Transition From Pvc Lead Stabilizers To Lead-Free Pvc Stabilizers – A Comprehensive Account

Pvc Lead Stabilizers

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) has traditionally held an important role in numerous industries owing to its versatility and resilience. Yet, for decades, the use of  PVC lead stabilizers has posed considerable environmental and health risks. With the pressing global call for climate action, there is an imperative need to transition towards lead-free organic-based stabilizers.

This paradigm shift in the industry is characterised by innovation, regulation, and a steadfast commitment to sustainability. This blog will delve into these transformative changes.

About India and Pipes

India is the 7th largest country by area and the 2nd most populous country with 1’368’738’000 in 2019 which is 17% of the world population. The Human Development Index was considered to be middle in 2018. The total annual water consumption is 761 billion qm which is the highest worldwide but India has only 4% of global water resources. The freshwater availability per capita is 1.125 qm vs 6.000 qm on the global average. India ranks number 132 regarding water availability worldwide. That’s already sad enough but the loss of water in distribution is 40 to 65% and wastewater management is critical.

However, ~1.4 billion people need fresh water every day. Pipes are necessary for supply. People don’t think about the water after usage. More pipes are necessary for this. Pipes made of PVC are the optimal choice regarding costs and performance. 3’180 kt PVC were used in India in 2018 and ~3’700 kt in 2021. The annual growth of PVC consumption in India is assumed with 6-10%. Pipes and fitting applications have the biggest market share with ~75%. These materials were mainly stabilised with Lead. In 2019 the Indian government announced a draft of a law to limit Lead migration into water. This is related to several challenges to the manufacturers and their supplying industry. PVC pipes are manufactured by extrusion in a variety of dimensions such as solid wall or cellular core construction. More than 2’000 processors manufacture PVC pipes. An upsurge in the demand for pipes in the irrigation sector and building and construction industry is the driving factor. New investments in technological pipes like o-PVC (bimolecular oriented), and foam core… are adding new segments of the market.

The Era of PVC Lead Stabilizers: 

Historically, lead-based stabilizers were extensively utilised in PVC formulations to augment thermal stability and processability. These stabilizers proficiently prevented PVC from deteriorating during processing. The lifetime of end-use applications is more than 100 years. The 1st PVC pressure pipes were produced in Germany during the 30th of last century. However, the environmental and health hazards associated with lead raised serious concerns, prompting regulatory bodies worldwide to enact stringent restrictions on its use. It’s nearly impossible to mention all the publications about the alternatives to Lead Stabilizers in PVC. Many of them are published by stabilizer producer to promote their products but also to convince the PVC industry in Europe and worldwide that Calcium-Zinc and Calcium organic Stabilizers a reliable technical and commercial solutions. Here are some independent publications: 

Lunde et al. published a sustainability assessment of stabilizer systems for PVC pipes in 2005. They concluded that both Calcium-Zinc and Calcium-organic have the highest potential to become fully sustainable PVC stabilizers. Barth summarised the results of an enormous Round Robin Trial of the German Plastic Pipe Association. Pipes of several converters stabilized with Lead, calcium zinc, Calcium-organic and Tin stabilizers from different sources were tested regarding all properties. The result: All three Lead-free Stabilizer systems are suitable technical solutions. Everard et al. considered the metals used in PVC Stabilizers under the aspect of sustainability. They found that Lead and Cadmium are toxic but also far away from being sustainable. The European VinylPlus is an inspiring initiative and platform supported by an NGO which reports the progress of the European PVC industry towards sustainability. It’s an initiative giving an example to other areas and plastics.

Cadmium-containing stabilizers were entirely replaced in Europe, under a voluntary, responsible programme driven by the PVC Additives suppliers, since 2001 in EU-15 and 2007 in EU-27. Lead stabilizers were phased out in EU-28 in 2015.

Regulatory Imperatives and Environmental Awareness: 

The acknowledgement of lead’s toxic effects on human health and the environment instigated a global movement towards phasing out lead-based stabilizers in PVC products. Regulatory mandates necessitated the transition to lead-free alternatives. Moreover, the burgeoning environmental consciousness and consumer demand for sustainable products significantly hastened this transition.

The phase-out of Lead Stabilizers is supported by the Indian government under PM Modi which was published in September 2019 in the Gazette of India.

There is mentioned as follows: 

  • „1. Short title and commencement.—(1) These rules may be called the Lead Stabilizer in Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Pipes and Fittings, Rules, 2019.“
  • „(2) They shall come into force on the date of their publication in the Official Gazette.“
  • “Prohibition of use of lead or lead compounds…“
  • „…(3) The manufacturer of PVC pipes and fittings shall be prohibited to use lead or lead compounds as a stabilizer in manufacturing of such PVC pipes and fittings as provided in column (2) of the Schedule, from the date as specified in column (4) of the said Schedule…“.

This limits the migration of Lead into the water. It’s one step in the right direction for a better life, safer working conditions, a cleaner environment and more sustainability in India. „The future depends on what you do today.“ (Mahatma Gandhi)

Advancements in Lead-Free Stabilizers: 

The interest of esp. PVC pipe and fitting manufacturers in India in Lead-free Stabilizer alternatives started in 2004-2006 and were really limited at this time.

The obstacles of Calcium-Zinc Stabilizers were known. Higher dosages of this type of stabilizer and the prices due to higher raw material costs plus the missing experience of stabilizer manufacturers prevented this interest of converters. The number of Indian producers of Lead-free Stabilizers was more than limited. The technical support by imported materials was difficult because of geographic distance. Last but not least, it’s difficult for a foreign producer to understand the special requirements of Indian technology.

More interest in calcium zinc from local pipes came up in 2016 and 2017. Renowned pipe producers like:

  • Supreme Pipes and Fittings
  • Astral Pipes
  • Prince Pipes and Fittings
  • Ashirvad Pipes
  • Finolex Industries
  • Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd.

All of them produce high-quality products in plants with high HSE standards. Trials were successful and went to regular and growing business. 

Trusting European technology adjusted to the needs of Indian converters, locally produced with local raw materials whenever the quality it allows  is one of the keys to a successful phase-out of Lead. Local leaders for a supply of stabilizers are companies like Platinum Industries Ltd. beside Reagens India and Baerlocher India.

The current surge in demand for lead-free PVC stabilizers has spurred significant advancements in material science and formulation technologies. Alternative stabilizers, including calcium-zinc, tin, and organic-based compounds, emerged as feasible substitutes for lead. For instance, at Platinum Industries Ltd., our lead-free stabilizers not only comply with regulatory standards but also deliver comparable or improved performance characteristics, encompassing thermal stability, weatherability, and processing efficiency. Platinum has separated the production of lead-free stabilizers from the lead-containing products to avoid cross-contamination. More than 70% of Platinum’s sales of stabilizers for PVC are lead-free today.

Industry Collaboration and Innovation: 

PVC manufacturers, stabilizer producers, researchers, and regulatory bodies collaborated closely to devise and implement sustainable solutions. Technological breakthroughs, such as pioneering stabilizer formulations and process optimisation techniques, played a pivotal role in surmounting the challenges entailed in eliminating lead from PVC formulations.

As the global sustainability movement gains traction, the demand for lead-free PVC stabilizers is projected to escalate. Platinum Industries, as a member of the Indian Vinyl Council (IVC), has been progressively investing in research and development to yield high-quality and sustainable PVC stabilizers, thereby setting a precedent for the industry.

Platinum Industries Ltd., the prominent PVC stabilizer manufacturer in India, also stands as a member of the Indian Vinyl Council (IVC).