Wall Street Journal (pg. B7)

December 7, 2005


By Thaddeus Herrick

Microsoft Corp. is curbing its use of a popular plastic known as PVC
amid growing health and environmental concerns.

The software giant is the latest company to distance itself from
polyvinyl chloride, or vinyl, which critics say poses dangers
throughout its life cycle. Others to move away from PVC include
Hewlett-Packard Co., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and health-care provider
Kaiser Permanente, according to the Center for Health, Environment and
Justice. The Falls Church, Va., advocacy group is expected to announce
Microsoft's action today.

Microsoft, which long used PVC packaging for products, said it will
have completed its phaseout of the material by the end of 2005. That
move has resulted in the elimination of 361,000 pounds of vinyl since
July 2005, the company said. PVC is used in the clamshell casing for
some computer products.

Micosoft said cardboard will suffice as a replacement in most cases
but that the company will also use PET, a polyethylene plastic used in
food packaging such as soft-drink bottles that can be recycled into
carpet and fleece clothing.

"We should do what's in our control to do," said Pamela Passman, vice
president of global corporate affairs for Microsoft.

As much as 16 billion pounds of vinyl are produced annually in North
America, according to the Vinyl Institute, an Arlington, Va., industry
group. The Vinyl Institute says the material is among the nation's
largest-selling plastics, with more than $6 billion in resin sales.

Health and environmental advocates say PVC poses a threat because when
produced or burned it releases dioxins, chemicals that potentially
cause cancer in humans. Plasticizers in PVC known as phthalates also
are opposed by critics concerned that they may cause reproductive
disorders in humans. Plasticizers are needed to make brittle plastic
soft and pliable.

The Vinyl Institute responds that the industry's emissions of dioxins
are a tiny fraction of the total dioxin emissions in the U.S. The
group also cites EPA data that show overall emissions of dioxins in
the U.S. declining by 80% between 1987 and 1995.

Vinyl makers also say phthalates have been safely used as plasticizers
for more than 50 years, and are among the most studied compounds in
the U.S.

Write to Thaddeus Herrick at thaddeus.herrick@wsj.com